Professor Jay Famiglietti is a hydrologist, a Global Futures Professor at Arizona State University, and a science communicator. He is Executive Director Emeritus of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, where he held the Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing. He was the founding Chief Scientist of the Silicon Valley tech startup, Waterplan, which he continues to advise.
Previously he was a hydrologist and Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where his research group investigated how the water cycle and freshwater resources are being impacted by climate change. He and his students used 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.
As an advisor to the U. S. Congress and the California Governor’s office on water availability and water security issues, Famiglietti has testified before Congress, and participated in 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.
Famiglietti’s work is widely cited. He has been a guest on the CBS Evening News, Rachel Maddow Show, 60 Minutes, and PBS NewsHour, as well as on NPR and the BBC. He has written for Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, as well as Science and other academic journals and general publications. He was a story consultant on the documentary miniseries, Parched, an Alex Gibney/Jigsaw Production for National Geographic, was a featured expert in Jessica Yu’s water documentary Last Call at the Oasis, and was in episode 3 of H20: The Molecule That Made Us a 3-hour series from WGBH Boston. In 2022 he was a featured expert in the Amazon Prime original water documentary Day Zero. He also participated in a series of short water docs that were produced for German Public Television. He hosts a podcast titled What About Water (formerly Let’s Talk About Water) co-produced by The Walrus.
Famiglietti has served as the Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecturer of the Geological Society of America delivering over 50 lectures on global water cycle change and freshwater availability. He also served as the David Keith Todd Lecturer of the Groundwater Resources Association for Southern California. Famiglietti is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and of the Geological Society of America.
Photo Steve Anderson