ORTLAND, OREGON-The Freshwater Trust (TFT), a river restoration and water conservation nonprofit, partnered with Upstream Tech, a mission-driven company, to develop a unique technology platform to protect water resources more efficiently and effectively.
The jointly developed BasinScout® Platform efficiently targets high-impact opportunities for restoration or conservation in a watershed. It can be used for designing a basin-wide plan to improve groundwater sustainability, minimize nutrient runoff into a river system, and identify fields ripe for practices that would improve water quality and quantity.
"Integration and speed are the key benefits here," said Sharon Petras, product manager with TFT. "It is now possible for us to quickly assess the current state of a watershed and generate recommendations for improving water quality and quantity. What's more, this platform allows us to prioritize the actions by considering cost constraints and conservation targets."
Upstream Tech and TFT recognized a great need to leverage new technologies, such as machine learning, up-to-date satellite imagery and automation, to accelerate water conservation at scale.
Watershed analysis and conservation planning - a process that currently takes months or years - can now be done in a matter of days using BasinScout Platform.
By using satellite data and machine learning, BasinScout Platform automates the planning process - identifying optimal field-level recommendations to meet conservation goals, thereby saving organizations time while maximizing impact.
In a region with hundreds of thousands of acres, users can hone in on the few dozen fields where conservation actions will do the most good.
These insights will enable users, such as water agencies, natural resource managers and sustainability directors, to confidently make decisions for conservation programs and maximize conservation investments. For example, if a groundwater sustainability agency needed to create an actionable groundwater sustainability plan, they could use the BasinScout Platform to evaluate multiple scenarios with field-by-field recommendations for reducing water usage across their basin. For TFT, it helps in determining who to partner with to fix an entire river basin for the least amount of cost, ensuring dollars go further and to the correct places.
"By analyzing satellite data with machine learning models, we can quickly identify field-level management practices and aggregate up to the watershed level," said Marshall Moutenot, Upstream co-founder. "This process had previously been time-consuming and costly. Now, the combined approach can expand from small geographies, such as an irrigation district, to larger regions, such as an entire state, to create a more comprehensive and transferable approach to addressing critical water issues."
The first iteration of the platform has been designed to discover the best places to improve agricultural practices for water conservation in California, such as irrigation improvements, managed aquifer recharge, and cover cropping. The state of California mandated specific groundwater targets in 2014, after recognizing the need to better monitor water use. This tool aims to empower ongoing conservation planning efforts with a tailored plan for how to achieve sustainability goals in the years ahead.
TFT and Upstream Tech are already working to bring these tools to other geographies, including Oregon and the Midwest.
"This platform was developed with the goal of providing those who are making decisions about the future of water with a more accurate roadmap to achieving sustainability," said David Primozich, conservation director with TFT.
About The Freshwater Trust
The Freshwater Trust is a nonprofit with a mission to preserve and restore freshwater ecosystems. The 36-year-old organization develops data analytics applications and methodologies to support strategic watershed restoration project planning, tracking, and reporting. Since 2011, TFT has used its patented StreamBank® suite of tools, including its BasinScout methods, for assessing watersheds, prioritizing restoration actions, and monitoring long-term benefits. In addition to technology, TFT has three decades of experience implementing projects in and along rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest to benefit native species habitat, water quality and streamflow goals.
About Upstream Tech
Upstream Tech designs and develops decision-support technologies for scalable environmental conservation. As a public benefit corporation, Upstream Tech leverages innovations such as satellite data and machine learning to translate data into efficient actions for land conservation, agriculture, and water management.