Where's Water? Colorado River From Lake Powell to Southern California ... SWOT has it covered

The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission will help us better understand our planet... pretty much anywhere!

California's success depends on fresh water.
It leads the nation in terms of economy, population, and agriculture.
This is, in large part, thanks to fresh water access.

75% of the state's rain and snow fall north of Sacramento. However, 80% of the water demand comes from the southern two-thirds of the state.

The 2015-2016 El Niño was predicted to bring heavy rains to Southern California. However, during this event most of the rain fell in the northern third of the state, as shown in the video above.

Where does Southern California's drinking water come from?

The Colorado River, which includes Hoover Dam on Lake Mead in Nevada.
Downstream – on the California/Arizona border – Lake Havasu stores water that is transported west via the Colorado River Aqueduct.
Built in the 1930s, the Colorado River Aqueduct is Southern California's primary source of drinking water.

Also located on the Colorado River, Lake Powell is further upstream than Lake Mead. The video above shows the dramatic drop in Lake Powell’s water level between 1999 and 2017 caused by prolonged drought and water withdrawals.

How will SWOT help us understand the Colorado River & beyond?

For the first time, SWOT will observe freshwater reservoirs 1600x smaller than can be detected by today's water-level sensing satellites!

Southern California is home to the original Disneyland. Its Florida counterpart, however, better illustrates the improvement that SWOT will make in resolving freshwater reservoirs. Today's water-level-sensing satellites can only detect reservoirs larger than 10 km by 10 km (6.2 mi by 6.2 mi). That's about the size of Disney World. SWOT will see reservoirs 250 m by 250 m (820 ft by 820 ft)... about the size of the area around the Epcot Center.

SWOT will map the height and extent of lakes, such as the Colorado River's Lake Mead.

It will also be used to assess changes in Colorado River flow.

It will detect much smaller reservoirs than today's water-level sensing satellites, radar altimeters.

As a result, SWOT will observe more of the variations in lake and reservoir water storage worldwide!

Where There's Water... There's SWOT!

Launch Date: 2021
Launch Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Altitude in orbit: 857 km (532.5 mi)
Swath: 120 km (75 mi) wide
Coverage: 77.6°N to 77.6°S with an average revisit time of 11 days
Partners: NASA and Centre National D'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and United Kingdom Space Agency

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