Computing for Sustainable Water

Project Status and Findings:  

Information about this project is provided on the web pages below and by the project scientists on the Computing for Sustainable Water website. If you have comments or questions about this project, please visit the Computing for Sustainable Water forum.


The mission of the Computing for Sustainable Water project is to study the effects of human activity on a large watershed and gain deeper insights into what actions can lead to restoration, health and sustainability of this important water resource. The extensive computing power of World Community Grid will be used to perform millions of computer simulations to better understand the effects that result from a variety of human activity patterns in the Chesapeake Bay area. The researchers hope to be able to apply what is learned from this project across the globe to other regions which face challenges of sustainable water.


Water is the most abundant resource on Earth, yet the world faces many challenging water-related problems. Among them is the management of its freshwater resources. More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean, safe water. This problem is becoming more critical in the world as the proportion of people living in dense urban environments rises. The resulting demands for water contend with increasing human activities which degrade the quality of available water. A complex set of interrelated forces makes the problem difficult to address, much less to solve effectively via coordinated policy.


The University of Virginia developed a participatory simulation model of the Chesapeake Bay, the UVA Bay GameĀ® (, incorporating natural elements and human activity using game players representing crop farmers, land developers, watermen, and assorted regulators. The UVA Bay Game has been successful in providing a learning platform for conveying the issues of complex watershed behavior and management. But to better understand the complex natural and human dynamics at work in this complex system, a much more detailed simulation model was developed to run on World Community Grid. Each of many millions of computer simulations, using unique combinations of a wide variety of assumptions about the natural and human actions at play, will calculate the resulting effects on the watershed. Exploring these many results, the researchers expect to develop insight into how these assumptions affect the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. With these insights, the researchers will be able to better inform policy makers and suggest how prudent actions can lead to water restoration and sustainability. The ultimate goal is to eventually apply this knowledge and the techniques learned with the Computing for Sustainable Water project to other watersheds around the world.