A High-Tech Approach to Watershed Management

By Marguerite Huber

Close-up-of-waterfallTechnology amazes me.  It seems like every day new technologies are being developed, and we are suddenly able to do things faster and easier.  And I am not just talking about the latest smartphone or app, but a new tool created by EPA scientists, too!

EPA researchers studying green infrastructure (using vegetation, soil, and other naturalistic techniques to reduce stormwater runoff) collaborated with colleagues in the Agency’s New England office (EPA Region 1) to develop a new public-domain software app called the Watershed Management Optimization Support Tool (WMOST).

The goal of the tool is to help water resource managers and planners identify cost effective, sustainable green infrastructure options for their local jurisdictions. After users enter information about their watershed, water utility infrastructure and constraints related to management objectives, the tool will identify the optimal (lowest cost) long-term solution.

EPA scientist Naomi Detenbeck, who has been working on the tool for the past two years, describes WMOST as “a user-friendly tool that allows communities to meet their water use needs in the most cost effective manner.” It can even be used to evaluate land use and climate change scenarios!

WMOST can easily evaluate more than twenty potential management practices and goals related to water supply, such as surface water storage and non-potable water reuse. The tool requires some specific community inputs such as watershed characteristics and management goals. With this information, WMOST can simply calculate the optimal solution.

Local water resources managers, such as municipal water works managers and consultants, can use WMOST to evaluate projects related to stormwater, water supply, wastewater and more.  At this time, it is designed for small watersheds, single communities, or multiple communities within a small watershed.

Detenbeck explains that WMOST will help communities complete a more comprehensive evaluation of watershed management issues. It will also allow communities to look holistically across their stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water programs.

Some of our favorite technologies, such as our smartphone or tablet, provide us with instant gratification and updates. On the other hand, technologies like WMOST are more focused on the long run. Results may not be instantaneous, but in time they will provide a meaningful environmental impact that all of us will get to benefit from.

The WMOST download can be found here.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber is a Student Contractor with EPA’s Science Communications Team.