Computing for Sustainable Water

Professor Gerard Learmonth

Scientists know that an excess of nitrogen and phosphorous is damagin the Chesapeake Bay – and they know it’s coming from sewage treatment plants, farms and urban runoff.  What they don’t know is how changes in human behavior and climate will impact the bay.

The University of Virginia came up with a computer simulation to answer those questions – but there are so many possible scenarios that it would take decades for the university to crunch all the numbers.

Virginia scientists and engineers would like to forecast the environmental and economic effects of possible changes to agriculture, commerce and industry over the next twenty years for the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, and IBM says it’s willing to help.  The company oversees a network of volunteers in 80 countries around the world – people who lend their computers’ down time for use in solving community problems.   Using about 2 million of those PCs, the university hopes to reach conclusions in a single year.

“What we’re trying to do is determine via the simulation model which practices individual persons can adopt that will help reduce the flow of nutrients to the bay, so that we can not only restore the bay but sustain it for future generations,” says Systems Engineering Professor Gerad Learmonth.

He points out the the findings could guide policymakers and the public – assuring that we do the most effective things in the years to come, and he says, this could help about 400 other waterways. The Computing for Sustainable Water Project relies on a mathematical model that simulates the actions of the 16.7 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. UVA hopes many of them will join the World Community Grid by downloading a free app to their personal computers.

IBM says calculations are done automatically when systems are not in use. The process requires no time from volunteers, resists viruses, uses little additional energy, and does not affect computer speeds.
–Sandy Hausman

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