Global Hydro Intelligence analysis unlocks secure water resources

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Oct. 20, 2023
Updated: Oct. 20, 2023
A Blue, white graphic with red squares highlighting conflicts over water resources.

The Global Hydro Intelligence provides engineers and scientists solutions to combat domestic risks and potential global conflict over water resources. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers graphic)

Through the mighty waves and gentle streams of Earth’s waters flow countless opportunities for scientific discovery.

Scientists with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL) are exploring potential opportunities by utilizing Global Hydro Intelligence (GHI) to answer questions about the nation’s bodies of water and the possibilities available for scientists to research.

GHI – a collaboration between ERDC, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, the National Geospatial Agency, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory – is the integration of remote sensing, atmospheric, land surface, and hydrological models that provide on-demand hydrological data at the global scale to support Department of Defense (DOD) contingencies and resource protection and provide data to answer water security-related questions.

Simply put, GHI could be the answer to mitigating catastrophic flooding globally.

"Imagine watching the national or global news – chances are there is a breaking story about a flood that devastated a community, city, or country," Sarah Lytle, a research physical scientist at CHL, said. "Now imagine having a tool that could predict when, where, and how severe future flooding events happen within a reasonable amount of uncertainty all over the globe."

Predicting the severity of storms is only one of GHI's possibilities. Lytle said that GHI's potential ranges far, giving scientists critical information to current and future challenges.

"The possibilities are vast. Water scarcity, extreme flooding and daily availability could be life-saving information. GHI represents a critical step to understanding the present and future ways we will be affected by Earth's most precious resource," Lytle said.

GHI aims to provide a comprehensive hydrological modeling framework that will serve as an authoritative source for the U.S. military, federal government, and intelligence community.

Matthew Geheran, a CHL research civil engineer, believes critical information learned from analyzing GHI provides scientists with solutions to combat domestic risks and potential global conflict over water resources.

“The U.S. intelligence community has identified coordination of shared water resources as an important national security concern,” Geheran said. “The GHI framework will provide authoritative and timely information that will improve the ability of the United States to respond to water-related threats around the world.”

Dr. Ahmad Tavakoly, a research hydraulic engineer at CHL, believes in GHI's ability to be a resource to several agencies and stakeholders.

“GHI provides an operationally trusted source of global hydro-intelligence information supporting OCONUS warfighters, planners, and decision-makers at all echelons and services of the U.S. military, the federal government, and intelligence community,” Tavakoly said.

As this planet's climate shifts, Lytle and fellow scientists aim to utilize research and their data to improve GHI, creating a safer environment.

"It's a living project, meaning as we better understand our climate, GHI is updated to improve with the latest scientific advancements for ERDC and its partners. It's a true inter-agency effort, and in the three years I've worked with it, I've seen it continually improve and grow to become an unrivaled capability in hydrological forecasting," Lytle said.