James S. Famiglietti

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James S. (Jay) Famiglietti is the director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. Prior to that he was the Senior Water Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA[1] and a professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. He is a leading expert in global water issues and in raising awareness about the global water crisis and in particular, about global groundwater depletion.[2]


Famiglietti received his B.S. in Geology from Tufts University in 1982 and his M.S. in Hydrology from the University of Arizona in 1986.[3] He continued his graduate studies at Princeton University, where he earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering.[4] Formerly an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and the founding Associate Director of the University of Texas at Austin's Environmental Science Institute, Famiglietti was also the founding director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM) at UC Irvine.[5]

Famiglietti is known for his research using satellites and developing computer models to track changing freshwater availability around the globe. His work, his commentary and efforts in science communication were featured in the Participant Media water documentary Last Call at the Oasis,[6] in 60 Minutes,[7] on Real Time with Bill Maher.[8]

Research and Projects[edit]

Famiglietti's research centers around “the role of hydrology in the coupled Earth system” and evaluating “global change impacts on water availability.”[9] He has long been a proponent of advancing the capabilities of hydrological models in the United States. While chair of the board of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI), he led the Community Hydrologic Modeling Platform (CHyMP) effort to accelerate the development of hydrological models for use in addressing global issues related to water, food, economic, climate, and global security. He continued those efforts at the UCCHM and at NASA JPL, where he leads the Western States Water Mission.[10]

Famiglietti conducts research using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to monitor how humans and global change are impacting freshwater availability. His team pioneered the use of GRACE for remote sensing of groundwater storage changes.[11] Their work has revealed unsustainable groundwater use and the rapid rates of groundwater depletion[2][12][13][14][15] in the world's major aquifers.[16][17] This research is also recognized by NASA as the primary justification for the selection of the GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) as a climate continuation mission.[18]

Awards and honors[edit]

Famiglietti is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU)[19] and of the Geological Society of America (GSA).[20] In 2012 he was selected as the GSA's Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer.[21] During that year he delivered over 50 lectures in the United States and internationally on the topics of water cycle change and on the need to advance hydrological modelling capabilities.[22] He was also selected as one of two 2014 David Keith Todd Lecturers of the Groundwater Resources Association of California.[23] In 2010, Famiglietti was the recipient of the Shimizu Visiting Professorship at Stanford University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Other notable honors include being awarded the Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education honor in 2005 by UC Irvine, and the NASA New Investigator Award in 1996.[9]


Famiglietti has published a number of academic research reports and articles, on topics ranging from soil moisture, to the remote sensing of groundwater availability and the effects of climate change on water balance. Notable publications include Satellite-Based Estimates of Groundwater Depletion in India,[12] Satellites Measure Recent Rates of Groundwater Depletion in California’s Central Valley (2011),[13] The Global Groundwater Crisis (2014),[24] Quantifying Renewable Groundwater Stress with GRACE[17] and Emerging trends in global freshwater availability[25]

Beyond academia, Famiglietti has published a number of op-eds in major national newspapers including the Los Angeles Times,[26][27][28] and the San Francisco Chronicle.[29] Among these, his March 12, 2015 LA Times op-ed went viral and attracted major media and public attention[30][31][32][33] He has also been a regular contributor to the National Geographic Water Currents blog[34] and to Huffington Post.[35]


  1. ^ NASA.gov
  2. ^ a b Famiglietti, J. S. (2014). "The global groundwater crisis". Nature Climate Change. 4 (11): 945–948. Bibcode:2014NatCC...4..945F. doi:10.1038/nclimate2425.
  3. ^ "UC Irvine – Faculty Profile System". .faculty.uci.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  4. ^ "UC Irvine – Faculty Profile System". faculty.uci.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  5. ^ "About". Jay Famiglietti. 2013-07-11. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  6. ^ Scott, A. O. (2012-05-03). "When There Really Is Not a Drop to Drink 'Last Call at the Oasis,' a Documentary About Water Supplies". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  7. ^ "Depleting the water". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  8. ^ "Watch Clips and other Real Time with Bill Maher videos online on HBO.com". HBO. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  9. ^ a b "UC Irvine – Faculty Profile System". faculty.uci.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-29.
  10. ^ "Science – Earth Science: People: James S. Famiglietti". science.jpl.nasa.gov. Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  11. ^ Barringer, Felicity (2011-05-30). "Groundwater Depletion Is Detected by Grace Satellites". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  12. ^ a b Rodell, Matthew; Velicogna, Isabella; Famiglietti, James S. (2009). "Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India". Nature. 460 (7258): 999–1002. Bibcode:2009Natur.460..999R. doi:10.1038/nature08238. PMID 19675570. S2CID 4428681.
  13. ^ a b Famiglietti, J. S.; Lo, M.; Ho, S. L.; Bethune, J.; Anderson, K. J.; Syed, T. H.; Swenson, S. C.; de Linage, C. R.; Rodell, M. (2011-02-01). "Satellites measure recent rates of groundwater depletion in California's Central Valley" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 38 (3): L03403. Bibcode:2011GeoRL..38.3403F. doi:10.1029/2010GL046442. ISSN 1944-8007.
  14. ^ Voss, Katalyn A.; Famiglietti, James S.; Lo, MinHui; de Linage, Caroline; Rodell, Matthew; Swenson, Sean C. (2013-02-01). "Groundwater depletion in the Middle East from GRACE with implications for transboundary water management in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region". Water Resources Research. 49 (2): 904–914. Bibcode:2013WRR....49..904V. doi:10.1002/wrcr.20078. ISSN 1944-7973. PMC 3644870. PMID 23658469.
  15. ^ Castle, Stephanie L.; Thomas, Brian F.; Reager, John T.; Rodell, Matthew; Swenson, Sean C.; Famiglietti, James S. (2014-08-28). "Groundwater depletion during drought threatens future water security of the Colorado River Basin". Geophysical Research Letters. 41 (16): 5904–5911. Bibcode:2014GeoRL..41.5904C. doi:10.1002/2014GL061055. ISSN 1944-8007. PMC 4373164. PMID 25821273.
  16. ^ Frankel, Todd C. (2015-06-16). "New NASA data show how the world is running out of water". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  17. ^ a b Richey, Alexandra S.; Thomas, Brian F.; Lo, Min-Hui; Reager, John T.; Famiglietti, James S.; Voss, Katalyn; Swenson, Sean; Rodell, Matthew (2015-07-01). "Quantifying renewable groundwater stress with GRACE". Water Resources Research. 51 (7): 5217–5238. Bibcode:2015WRR....51.5217R. doi:10.1002/2015WR017349. ISSN 1944-7973. PMC 4744761. PMID 26900185.
  18. ^ "Responding to the Challenge of Climate and Environmental Change: NASA's Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space" (PDF). NASA. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 28, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  19. ^ "Famiglietti". Honors Program. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  20. ^ "Geological Society of America – Fellowship". www.geosociety.org. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  21. ^ "Home – Hydrogeology Division".
  22. ^ "Water 50/50".
  23. ^ "David Keith Todd Distinguished Lecture Series to honor Dr. Todd for his contributions to groundwater science and technology". Archived from the original on 2015-10-03. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  24. ^ Famiglietti, J. S., "The Global Groundwater Crisis", Nature Climate Change, 2014.
  25. ^ Famiglietti, J. S., "Emerging trends in global freshwater availability", Nature, 2018.
  26. ^ "California's water house of cards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  27. ^ "How much water does California have left?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  28. ^ "California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  29. ^ "Food industry needs to step up on responsible groundwater use". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-10-14.
  30. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher, 'When in Drought' with Prof. Jay Famiglietti". HBO.
  31. ^ "CBS This Morning, 'California governor defends sparing farmers from drought rules'". CBS.
  32. ^ "Arnold @Schwarzenegger on Twitter". Twitter.com.
  33. ^ "Tavis Smiley". PBS.
  34. ^ "Jay Famiglietti – National Geographic Society Newsroom".
  35. ^ "Jay Famiglietti | HuffPost". HuffPost.

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