Large-Scale Hydrological and Water Resources Model Aids in the Accurate Assessment of Water Supply and Demand

Schematic figure of the processes included in the Community Water Model.
Credit: IIASA ENLARGE

The growing global population and continued economic development will likely require a significant increase in water demand, especially in developing regions. At the same time, climate change is already having global, regional, and local impacts on water availability. Ensuring that the changing supply can meet the continuously growing demand without compromising the sensitive aquatic environments from which it is derived, is clearly a huge challenge that will require strategies and policies informed by science.

In order to aid in the accurate assessment of water supply and the demands of both people and the environment, IIASA researchers have developed a large-scale hydrological and water resources model – the Community Water Model (CWatM). The model can simulate the movement, distribution, and management of water both globally and regionally to evaluate water availability in terms of water demand and environmental needs. It includes an accounting of how future water demand will evolve in response to socioeconomic change and how water availability will be influenced by climate change. The integrated modeling framework considers water demand from agriculture, domestic needs, energy, industry, and the environment.

The Community Water Model has a modular structure that is open source and uses state-of-the-art data storage protocols as input and output data, while being community-driven to promote the team’s work among the wider water community. It is flexible enough to change between scales, to be integrated with water quality and the hydro-economy, and to be linked with other IIASA models like MESSAGE, the Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM), BeWhere, and the Environmental Policy Integrated (EPIC) model.

Because the modeling framework is general, it can also be adapted to address new interdisciplinary research questions, which means that it opens the door to many potential applications to explore connections between the nexus aspects of energy, land, and water. According to the researchers, the main novelty of the model is that it combines existing good practice in various scientific communities beyond hydrology itself, rather than provide entirely new concepts for modeling hydrological and socioeconomic processes. Furthermore, the model is customizable to the needs of different users with varying levels of programming skills. This will support and enable different stakeholder groups and scientific communities beyond hydrology and of varying capacities to engage with a hydrological model in support of their investigations

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