Distinguished Achievement Award

Famiglietti is a hydrologist, a professor, and Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan, where he holds the Canada 150 Research Chair in Hydrology and Remote Sensing. Before moving to Saskatchewan, Famiglietti served for four years as Senior Water Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Prior to this, he was on the faculties of the University of California, Irvine and the University of Texas at Austin.

Famiglietti was born and raised in Rhode Island in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, where his love of the outdoors, combined with growing concerns over environmental degradation, led him to major in geology at Tufts. After graduating in 1982, he earned an MS in Hydrology from the University of Arizona and a PhD in Civil Engineering from Princeton University. 

Over the course of his career, Famiglietti has become a leading expert in global water issues. A fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, he and his students use satellites and develop advanced computer models to track changing freshwater availability around the world. Their research has revealed unsustainable rates of groundwater depletion in the world's major aquifers, and has affected water policy changes from California to India.

Confronted by the severity of the global water crisis, Famiglietti is deeply committed to science communication. He is a regular advisor to state, provincial, and federal government officials. His research and commentary are often featured in the international news media. He has appeared in Participant Media’s water documentary “Last Call at the Oasis,” on CBS News' 60 Minutes, and on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

Famiglietti and his wife Catherine (Keane) have two adult children, including their son Nicholas, who graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts in 2016.

Photo of James Famiglietti

James S. Famiglietti, PhD, A82, E16P