Climate change and water are closely linked

In general, Indiana is rich in water. However, will Hoosiers have enough water in 2050 or 2100 under a warming climate? A report sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in 2014 states, "Why water? The Answer: Water is . . . jobs and economic development. Among the fifty states, Indiana has the highest percentage of its economy dependent on water."

It does not need much explanation to say that freshwater resources are immensely important to economic and social development in Indiana. We need water of sufficient quality and quantity to meet our domestic needs, grow our food, manufacture our goods, generate electricity, and support our ecosystems.

At Indiana University, the Prepared for Environmental Change (PfEC) project within Grand Challenges program is focused on quantifying the impacts of environmental change and preparing for the real-world effects. As part of this project, we are constructing computer-based watershed models to answer the question: What does climate change mean for Indiana’s water resources? Successful planning water resources requires us all not only to put the best sciences into our forecasts but also to change the ways that scientific results are communicated. To demonstrate potential effective communication to researchers, policy makers, and the public, we are developing a prototype science gateway (see the Science Gateway link above). You can download model data, view the modeling results via interactive maps, and run modified models on IU’s exceptional High Performance Computing Infrastructure.

Computer models of watersheds can help us understand the relationship between climate, water quantity, and water quality.

We build models

To help us understand how Indiana’s hydrology will change in response to changes in our climate, we built a computer model of the Wabash River watershed – a regional watershed covering most of the State of Indiana. This computer model was constructed using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) – a watershed modeling program developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Our computer simulations predicted the water cycles to the year 2100 under two IPCC CO2 emission scenarios: RCP 4.5 and 8.5, representing a medium- and high-emissions scenario, respectively. You can find a brief introduction from the RESEARCH tab and find interactive maps from the SCIENCE GATEWAY.

Figure 1. Wabash Basin.

The Science Gateway