About Gopal Penny

Gopal Penny

Scientist, Climate Resilient Water Systems


Areas of expertise:

Hydrological sciences, remote sensing, complex water-agriculture systems, resilience of social-ecological systems, causal inference


Gopal's research at EDF supports resilient water management in arid and semi-arid agricultural regions by balancing the needs of farmers, households, and the environment. In particular, he studies incentives that shape stakeholder behavior with respect to water use in order to identify pathways to achieve agricultural water sustainability. This research unites approaches from hydrological sciences, remote sensing, and resilience of social-ecological systems and is closely tied to ongoing initiatives in California including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program (MLRP). Through this research program, Gopal also engages partners to support resilient water management in multiple watersheds in Asia.


Gopal joined EDF from the National University of Singapore, where he served as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and studied water-agriculture-infrastructure challenges in South and Southeast Asia. His doctoral and postdoctoral work focused on understanding causes and consequences of hydrological change in heavily managed agricultural landscapes in South Asia, including the Cauvery, Ganges, and Indus watersheds.


Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

M.S., Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

B.S., Electrical Engineering, Virginia Tech


Bertassello, L., Müller, M.F., Wiechman, A., Penny, G., Tuninetti, M., and Müller-Itten, M.C., 2023. Food demand displaced by global refugee migration influences water use in already water stressed countries. Nature Communications. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-38117-0

Mullen, C., Müller, M.F., Penny, G., Hung, F., Bolster, D., 2022. Hydro economic asymmetries and common-pool overdraft in transboundary aquifers. Water Resources Research. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022wr032136

Kryston, A., Müller, M.F., Penny, G., Bolster, D., Tank, J.L. and Mondal, M.S., 2022. Addressing climate uncertainty and incomplete information in transboundary river treaties: A scenario-neutral dimensionality reduction approach. Journal of Hydrology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2022.128004

Penny, G., Bolster, D., Müller, M.F., 2022. Social dilemmas and poor water quality in household water systems. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-26-1187-2022

Chiarelli, D. D., D’Odorico, P., Müller, M. F., Mueller, N. D., Davis, K. F., Dell’Angelo, J., Penny, G., & Rulli, M. C., 2022. Competition for water induced by transnational land acquisitions for agriculture. Nature Communications. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28077-2

Penny, G., Dar, Z.A., Müller, M.F., 2022. Climatic and anthropogenic drivers of a drying Himalayan river. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-26-375-2022

Penny, G., Müller-Itten, M., de los Cobos, G., Mullen, C., Müller, M.F., 2021. Trust and incentives for transboundary groundwater cooperation. Advances in Water Resources.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.advwatres.2021.104019

Müller, M.F., Penny, G., Niles, M.T., Ricciardi, V., Chiarelli, D.D., Davis, K.F., dell’Angelo, J., d’Odorico, P., Rosa, L., Rulli, M.C., Mueller, N., 2021. Impact of Transnational Land Acquisitions on Local Food Security and Diet Diversity. PNAS. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2020535118

Mullen, C., Penny, G., Müller, M.F., 2021. A simple cloud-filling approach for remote sensing water cover assessments. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-25-2373-2021

Penny, G., Mondal, M.S., Biswas, S., Bolster, D., Tank, J.L., Müller, M.F., 2020. Using natural experiments and counterfactuals for causal assessment: River salinity and the Ganges water agreement. Water Resources Research. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019WR026166

Penny, G., Srinivasan, V., Apoorva, R., Jeremiah, K., Peschel, J., Young, S., and Thompson S., 2020. A process-based approach to attribution of historical streamflow decline in a data-scarce and human-dominated watershed. Hydrological Processes. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.13707

Penny, G., Mullen, C., Bolster, D., Huber, B., Müller, M.F., 2020. anem: A simple web-based platform to build stakeholder understanding of groundwater behavior. Groundwater. http://doi.org/10.1111/gwat.13043

Rahman, M.M.*, Penny, G.*, Mondal, M.S, Zaman, M.H., Kryston, A., M. Salehin, M., Nahar, Q., Islam, M.S., Bolster, D., Tank, J.L, Müller, M.F., 2019. Salinization in large river deltas: Drivers, impacts and socio-hydrological feedbacks. Water Security. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasec.2019.100024

Penny, G., Goddard, J.J., 2018. Resilience principles in socio-hydrology: A case study review. Water Security. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasec.2018.11.003

Penny, G., Srinivasan V., Dronova. I., Lele S., and Thompson S., 2018. Spatial characterization of long-term hydrological change in the Arkavathy watershed adjacent to Bangalore, India. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-22-595-2018

Young, S., Peschel J., Penny, G., Thompson, S., Srinivasan, V., 2017. Robot-Assisted Measurement for Socio-Hydrologic Understanding in Data Sparse Regions. Water. https://doi.org/10.3390/w9070494

Srinivasan, V., Thompson, S., Madhyastha, K., Penny, G., Jeremiah, K., & Lele, S., 2015. Why is the Arkavathy River drying? A multiple-hypothesis approach in a data-scarce region. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-19-1905-2015

Penny, G., Daniels, K. E., & Thompson, S. E., 2013. Local properties of patterned vegetation: quantifying endogenous and exogenous effects. Phil Trans R Soc A. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2012.0359

*Co-first authors