Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Abinash Agrawal (Committee Member), G. Allen Burton (Committee Member), Subramania Sritharan (Committee Co-chair), Thaddeus Tarpey (Committee Member), Doyle Watts (Committee Chair)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


We investigated water loss by evapotranspiration (ET) from the Palo Verde Irrigation District (PVID) and the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR) in southern California bordering the Colorado River collaborating with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (U.S.B.R.). We developed an empirical model to estimate ET for the entire PVID using satellite derived MODIS enhanced vegetation index (EVI), and ground based measurements of solar radiation and vapor pressure. We compared our predictions with U.S.B.R. estimates through statistical cross validation and showed they agree with an error less than 8%. We tested the same model for an alfalfa field inside PVID to check its applicability at a smaller spatial scale. We showed that the same model developed for PVID is the best model for estimating ET for the alfalfa field. We collected data from three Bowen ratio energy balance (BREB) towers installed in the invasive saltcedar (Tamarix spp) dominated riparian zone in the CNWR and a fourth tower in the alfalfa field in PVID. The riparian sites were selected according to different densities of vegetation. We collected data from these sites at various intervals during the period between June 2006 to November 2008. We reduced the errors associated with the Bowen ratio data using statistical procedures taking into account occasional instrument failures and problems inherent in the BREB method. Our results were consistent with vegetation density and estimates from MODIS EVI images. To estimate ET for larger patches of mixed vegetation we modified the crop coefficient equation and represented it in terms of EVI. Using this approach, we scaled the alfalfa field data to the entire PVID and compared the results with U.S.B.R. (2001-2007) estimates. We predicted ET well within the acceptable range established in the literature. We empirically developed ET models for the riparian tower sites to provide accurate point scale ET estimation and scaled for the entire riparian region in CNWR with our modified crop coefficient approach. We investigated the assumptions upon which the Bowen ratio equation is developed. In the presence of turbulence some of the assumptions may not be valid, and the final data may require correction factors.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Year Degree Awarded