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Computer program bridges gap between scientists, water policy makers

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- A computer visualization tool developed by Arizona State University researchers can simulate the effects environmental and policy factors have on the future of water availability in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The program, called WaterSim, will be demonstrated on Feb. 17 by ASU geography professor Patricia Gober at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

WaterSim takes a cue from the SimCity video games, said Gober. It allows users to adjust factors such as population growth, climate change, land development, technological innovations and policy decisions and see how they could affect water supply in central Arizona. It was created by researchers at ASU's Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), which studies the interplay between climate and water management.

"Complex events happening in the world's future will trickle down to have an influence on Phoenix," Gober said, explaining that factors such as climate change in other parts of the world can have dramatic effects on the Valley. "WaterSim helps break up the complex systems into smaller pieces so researchers can study them in greater detail."

Gober and DCDC researchers began working on the WaterSim project in 2005. Their goal was to bridge the gap between policy makers and scientists, allowing both sides to better understand each other.

WaterSim developers created a visual interface that allows users to simultaneously view maps, graphs and numerical data that reflect a variety of regional environmental and policy conditions. As users manipulate those conditions, they can see how those decisions would affect water availability in central Arizona. For example, as Phoenix's population increases, more water will be needed. WaterSim also allows users to visualize futures with rapid or slow economic growth, more efficient or stagnant technology, and everything in between, with an emphasis on
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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
602-510-3402
Arizona State University
17-Feb-2007


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