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Research Summary Series: Decision Support for Sustainable Freshwater Management

Where it all Began.

Foundry Spatial began operations in 2009 as a consulting practice. Come 2012, however, the idea of collecting data, analyzing it, and providing clients PDFs and some data files that would quickly become out of date didn’t seem like the most efficient way to build a business and deliver value. Instead, we began building tools that would automate that process — software programs that would collect data, analyze it, and enable users to consume the insight on demand through easy to use web-based tools. We were so excited about how this was reshaping our work that we shared it with some clients. The immediate response was, “how do we get access to this ourselves?”. The first version of these tools provided information on water supply, demand, and ecosystem needs for bodies of water.

But What About Groundwater?

At this stage, all the underlying science was based solely on surface water impacts. This all began to change in 2015 when Founder and CEO, Ben Kerr, met Dr. Tom Gleeson, Associate Professor at the University of Victoria, who raised the question “but what about groundwater?”. This wasn’t the first time the question had come up, and our reasoning was that the simplified approach taken up to that point assumed that groundwater recharge and discharge was equivalent within a watershed. Recognizing that this was an important consideration, especially where substantial groundwater withdrawals have and continue to occur, the two began discussing opportunities how groundwater sustainability science could be integrated into the existing tools to further explore this question. Accordingly, their first project was an exploration of the viability of using analytical methods to account for the impact of groundwater withdrawals on streamflow for delivery through web-based decision support tools.

Results from this initial investigation, Research Summary — Streamflow Depletion Modeling: Methods for an Adaptable and Conjunctive Water Management Decision Support Tool, demonstrated the viability of the approach. Once they knew that they could do it, the team had to determine how the results compared to other, more time and resource-intensive approaches.

Alert the Water Leaders!

The team began putting together marketing materials and set out to discuss our vision with leading water practitioners around the world. Most notably, we identified an opportunity in California with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Given this opportunity, Foundry Spatial developed a partnership with Stanford, hosting a workshop to present and discuss methods for accounting for streamflow depletion from groundwater pumping. In 2017, the team also recruited Dr. Sam Zipper to lead the technical evaluation of the comparisons between analytical models and numerical models.

The Scientific Evaluation

From 2017 until late 2019, the team focused on scientific evaluation of the methods in comparison with numerical models, the status quo approach of quantifying groundwater and streamflow depletion. During this time, we developed a partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to test methods in the Navarro River watershed, proposed and secured a research project to test methods in the Province of BC, and produced a case study on the Republican River.

You can read more about these efforts here:

Where to Next?

The last year and a half has involved implementing groundwater sustainability science into our web-based decision support tools. In March 2020, we completed a scenario evaluation on the shifting timing of groundwater withdrawals in Northern California with TNC. Later that spring, we successfully demonstrated the ability to look at cumulative impacts of well pumping on streams near Santa Rosa, CA. The interest we’ve received from across the United States and Canada further solidifies the importance of our mission to inform water-related decisions, shaping the future of watersheds and aquifers. Our future-focused science aims to create long-term sustainable solutions — get in touch with us if you want to collaborate on these exciting initiatives or if you have any questions!

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Foundry Spatial

Foundry Spatial

Empowering decisions to shape the future of watersheds and aquifers.

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