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Professor, NASA Senior Water Scientist, & Global Water Crisis Specialist


Professor Jay Famiglietti is 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing, and Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. He is also the executive director of the University of Saskatchewan Global Institute for Water Security and will serve as a Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability and in the Department of Geography and Planning. Previously he was a hydrologist and the Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.  In 2013 he was appointed to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board by California Governor Jerry Brown.

At NASA Professor Famiglietti’s research group investigated how the water cycle and freshwater resources are being impacted by climate change. They developed advanced computer models and used satellite remote sensing to track water availability around the globe. Famiglietti’s work has been incorporated into several of the world’s leading global climate models, the complex numerical simulators used to predict and understand global change, and that provide the basis for assessment of future climate in the IPCC reports. He and his students pioneered methods using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission to identify groundwater depletion in the world’s major aquifers. Their work highlighted unsustainable rates of groundwater use around globe - from the Central Valley and the High Plains aquifers in the United States, to the Middle East, India, China and Australia.

Professor Famiglietti was the founding director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM), a University of California system-wide center formed to develop state-of-the-art predictive models to address high-priority water issues in California and the Western United States. In its brief history (2009-2014) the UCCHM published a series of high profile publications and reports, led important efforts in science communication and water diplomacy, and built the capacity to advise state and federal government officials on key issues related to climate change and sustainable water resources management. In 2014 Prof. Famiglietti moved the core of the UCCHM to NASA JPL, where he now heads the JPL Water Initiative, a strategic effort to bring the resources of NASA to bear on regional-to-global water and sustainability issues.  

Before joining the staff at the University of Saskatchewan, Famiglietti was an Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, where he helped launch the program in climate and the UT Environmental Science Institute. He has been a Visiting Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. Until 2016, he was a professor of Earth System Science and of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. Famiglietti is the past Chair of the Board of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), a past Editor-in-Chief of Geophysical Research Letters, and he is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the Geological Society of America. He and his research group have published over 120 papers in the peer reviewed literature.

Professor Famiglietti is a regular advisor to the U. S. Congress and the California Governor’s office on water availability and water security issues. He has testified before Congress, and has participated in numerous White House, State Department, Congressional, Pentagon and California State Legislature briefings. In addition, he has directly briefed international leaders including former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U. S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and former U. S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. His work is often featured in the international news media, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and The Economist, and on 60 Minutes, Real Time with Bill Maher and CNN/Fareed Zakaria GPS.  He has been a frequent guest on several news shows including the CBS Evening News, The Rachel Maddow Show, and the PBS News Hour, as well as National Public Radio and BBC Radio. Famiglietti was also a story consultant on the documentary miniseries, Parched, an Alex Gibney/Jigsaw Production for National Geographic which examined the world’s dwindling water supply. 

Professor Famiglietti actively communicates water and climate change issues - in academics, in business, in government and to the general public. He appeared as a featured expert in the water documentary Last Call at the Oasis, and is a regular contributor to National Geographic Water Currents and the Huffington Post. His Opinion and Commentary pieces have been published in the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and in the academic journals Science and Nature Climate Change.

Professor Famiglietti is an avid speaker. In 2012 he served as the Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America and delivered over 50 lectures on global water cycle change and freshwater availability. In 2014 served as the David Keith Todd Lecturer of the Groundwater Resources Association for Southern California.

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