Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Testing the Water

Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Bookmark and Share
A new online tool enables users to assess not only how much water we use and for what, but also how we can mitigate future scarcity.

Water, like many other natural resources,is in both high demand and limited supply. In any one region, this precious substance is needed to sustain the domestic requirements of the population, irrigate crops, maintain ecosystems and assist in manufacturing and energy production.

Focusing on the state of California, a multidisciplinary group of Cambridge researchers has developed a model to calculate monthly and annual water demand. Moreover, because the model calculates future scenarios, it provides a means of assessing what can be done to mitigate water scarcity.

Dr Julian Allwood, who leads the Foreseer Project that created the tool, explained: “We’re aiming to create visually compelling messages about resource use now, and in the future, to help users understand the consequences of their choices. We want to help identify opportunities where efficiencies or demand reduction would be effective, and equally we need to demonstrate which actions would have only a little impact.”

For resource managers, policy makers and industry, understanding how to sustainably manage the competing demands on a limited resource is a considerable challenge. An estimated 1.2 billion people currently experience water scarcity and, as the population rises, demand will increasingly outstrip supply.

At the heart of the online tool is the Sankey diagram: a visualisation technique that transforms the plethora of data into an intuitive representation. Horizontal lines trace the flow of water from its various sources (rainfall, surface water, ground water, recycled water), through the services that use it (agriculture, industry, domestic and the environment), to where it ends up, with the relative width of each line representing the amount of resource at each stage.

The model is among a suite of similar tools being created by the BP-funded Foreseer Project. The first is focused on energy, land and water use in California, and is now being used by members of industry, academia and NGOs. Recently, the researchers began work to implement and visualise energy scenarios being considered by California energy planners to investigate the land and water resource implications of future energy use.

“There is a certain attraction in being able to see all demands on a resource being traced through to its end point,” explained team member Dr Jonathan Cullen. “It reveals the scale and impact of human choices and directs attention towards actions that might make a real difference. Because the tool is dynamic, it’s possible to ‘toggle’ multiple water management policies to see what the outcome on energy, land and water resources might be.”

In California, the water resource issues already faced by the state are likely to worsen with the predicted climate-related reduction in snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. At the same time the demand for water for agriculture, urban uses and the environment could also increase, which may lead to intense competition between these different sectors.   

It’s a gloomy picture but, as researcher Dr Liz Curmi described, the aim of the tool is to look for positives. “We built the tool to be user centred because we wanted people to think about the positive actions they can take to reduce stress on the resource. So, a policy maker might ask whether increasing desalination would make a difference, and the answer, on a state-wide level, is no. But reducing the amount of irrigated water used by the agricultural sector through growing less water-intensive crops could have a dramatic effect.”

Key to the Foreseer Project is the ability to look at the whole picture, to create models that go beyond focusing on a single resource to integrate water, energy and land use. It’s a strategy intended to understand what Professor John Beddington, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, termed a “perfect storm” of insufficient energy, water and food.

“This cohesive view differentiates us from other modelling research groups,” said researcher Grant Kopec. “By integrating these resources, we think we can identify trade-offs between sectors that you might not normally think of as being connected, for instance between power production and agriculture.”

The team, which also includes Bojana Bajželj and Ying Qin, works in the Department of Engineering but is supported by a multidisciplinary group of nine co-investigators from seven different departments. “The collaboration of experts from so many disciplines has been critical to the iterative process we go through to create our models,” explained Allwood. “We all have an interest in the demand on global resources but this may be from a geographical, atmospheric, biological, engineering, mathematical or management perspective – all are needed if we want to design mitigation plans that add up.”

Now the team is extending its focus to other regions of the world including China and the UK with, respectively, funding from BP and as part of a multi-university consortium (WholeSEM) funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Eventually, the aim is to connect regions, countries and continents to arrive at a set of linked global assessments of water, land and energy resources. Already, they have accomplished this for global man-made greenhouse gas emissions: connecting services such as food and transport via the business that delivers them through to the fuel each uses and the emissions that are created.

“By visualising the data as Sankey diagrams, we find out that the scale of intervention really matters,” said Allwood. “One of the big things we’ve learned is how increasing efficiency is not enough – we also have to reduce demand because this can have far more widespread positive impacts than previously considered.”


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

New Consortium to Develop and Study Early Stage Drugs
An innovative new Consortium will act as a ‘match-making’ service between pharmaceutical companies and researchers in Cambridge with the aim of developing and studying precision medicines for some of the most globally devastating diseases.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
MRSA Contamination Found in Supermarket Pork
A survey carried out earlier this year has found the first evidence of the ‘superbug’ bacteria Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in sausages and minced pork obtained from supermarkets in the UK.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Expression of Certain Genes Changes with the Seasons
As the seasons change, so do the expression levels of many human genes, including ones involved in immune function, according to new research.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Blood Markers Could Help Predict Outcome Of Infant Heart Surgery
New research suggests it may be possible to predict an infant’s progress following surgery for congenital heart disease by analysing a number of important small molecules in the blood.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Poisons, Plants and Palaeolithic Hunters
Dr Valentina Borgia to develop a technique for detecting residues of deadly substances on archaeological objects.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
‘Mini-Lungs’ Grown To Aid The Study Of Cystic Fibrosis
'Mini-lungs’ have been created using stem cells derived from skin cells of patients with cystic fibrosis.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Gene Discovery Provides Clues To How TB May Evade The Immune System
The largest genetic study of TB susceptibility to date has led to a potentially important new insight into how the pathogen manages to evade the immune system.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Human Genome Includes 'Foreign' Genes Not From Our Ancestors
Many animals, including humans, acquired essential ‘foreign’ genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Order Matters: Sequence Of Genetic Mutations Determines How Cancer Behaves
The order in which genetic mutations are acquired determines how an individual cancer behaves, according to research from the University of Cambridge, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Artificially-intelligent Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ Could Boost Search for New Drugs
Eve, an artificially-intelligent ‘robot scientist’ could make drug discovery faster and much cheaper, say researchers writing in the Royal Society journal Interface.
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Using Genome Sequencing to Track MRSA in Under-resourced Hospitals
Whole genome sequencing of MRSA from a hospital in Asia has demonstrated patterns of transmission in a resource-limited setting, where formal screening procedures are not feasible.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Amazing Feet Of Science: Researchers Sequence The Centipede Genome
What it lacks in genes, it certainly makes up for in legs: the genome of the humble centipede has been found to have around 15,000 genes – around 7,000 fewer than a human.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Molecular Event Mapping Opens Door to more in silico Tests
It is hoped that this new approach to mapping and predicting the impact of chemical compounds in the body could reduce the need for toxicity tests in animals.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Drugging the Undruggable
Discovery opens up possibility of slowing cancer spread.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Imaging The Genome
University of Cambridge study allows researchers to peer into unexplored regions of the genome and understand the role played by more than 250 genes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Scientific News
Liquid Biopsies: Utilization of Circulating Biomarkers for Minimally Invasive Diagnostics Development
Market Trends in Biofluid-based Liquid Biopsies: Deploying Circulating Biomarkers in the Clinic. Enal Razvi, Ph.D., Managing Director, Select Biosciences, Inc.
Lab-on-a-Chip Offers Promise for TB and Asthma Patients
A device to mix liquids using ultrasonics is the first and most difficult component in a miniaturized system for low-cost analysis of sputum from patients with pulmonary diseases such as tuberculosis and asthma.
Intracellular Microlasers Could Allow Precise Labeling of up to a Trillion Individual Cells
MGH investigators have induced structures incorporated within individual cells to produce laser light at wavelengths that differ based on the size, shape and composition of each microlaser, allowing precise labeling of individual cells.
Real-Time Imaging of Lung Lesions During Surgery
Targeted molecular agents cause lung adenocarcinomas to fluoresce during surgery, according to pilot report.
Watching a Tumour Grow in Real-Time
Researchers from the University of Freiburg have gained new insight into the phases of breast cancer growth.
Protein Related to Long Term Traumatic Brain Injury Complications Discovered
NIH-study shows protein found at higher levels in military members who have suffered multiple TBIs.
Childhood Cancer Cells Drain Immune System’s Batteries
Cancer cells in neuroblastoma contain a molecule that breaks down a key energy source for the body’s immune cells, leaving them too physically drained to fight the disease.
Urine Proteins Point to Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer
A combination of three proteins found at high levels in urine can accurately detect early-stage pancreatic cancer, researchers at the BCI have shown.
Researcher Discovers Trigger of Deadly Melanoma
New research sheds light on the precise trigger that causes melanoma cancer cells to transform from non-invasive cells to invasive killer agents, pinpointing the precise place in the process where "traveling" cancer turns lethal.
New Vaccine For Chlamydia to Use Synthetic Biology
Prokarium Ltd, a biotechnology company developing transformational oral vaccines, have announced new funding from SynbiCITE, the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!