Toolkit To Help European Water Industry

A team of international researchers announced on Feb. 15 they have developed a new toolkit that, for the first time, provides a common standard for linking essential computer programs that help balance water supplies against the demand from domestic, recreational and industrial users.

The "Open Modelling Interface" (OpenMI) will not only make life easier for thousands of water and environmental managers across Europe, it will open up the business market for small companies and universities who are developing computer models, the researchers said.

Under the European Union's (EU) Water Framework Directive water managers must consider all of the likely social, economic and environmental impacts of their policies before they implement them. The OpenMI will help them to do this and also save them money, the researchers said.

"Water and environmental managers use computer models to help them find solutions to problems and predict how their decisions and actions will affect a whole chain of different elements. For example, a few years ago they might only have considered the benefits to a region's economy by allowing power-boating on lakes. They now have to balance that decision against what effect the noise and possible pollution of this activity will have on the water, the plants and fish, and the local fishing industry," said Roger Moore, the Open MI project leader from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

"Until now, when these managers have wanted to link models together and explore how different processes interact they have had to buy complete modeling systems covering, for example, ecology, chemistry, hydrology and economy. These might not always have contained the ideal set of models. In future they will be able to buy the best mix from a variety of suppliers and join them up themselves," Moore said.

He added, "The unique thing about the Open MI is that it provides a standard that links the computer models and allows them to talk to each other while they are actually running."

The OpenMI environment provides a range of tools for model migrating, linking and monitoring linked model runs. These are available free under an Open Source licence and would otherwise have to be written by the developer.

To support the Open MI and its users into the future, the project team also is launching a membership association. Any organizations with an interest in decision support or modeling relating to the environment or water industries are encouraged to join. Instructions on how to join will shortly be available on the Web site at http://www.OpenMI.org.

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