LOGAN – Scientists at Utah State University have developed software that will hopefully change the way people use water. The software is called WaterMAPS, and it uses water billing data and city utilities to figure out how much water is being used to water a landscape and how effectively that water is being used. WaterMAPS stands for Water Management Analysis and Planning Software.
Associate professor in the Department of Environment and Society in the College of Natural Resources Dr. Joanna Endter-Wada has worked as the social and policy scientist on the project along with two of her colleagues for the past five years. Dr. Roger Kjelgren, professor <span>in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate of the College of Agriculture</span><span>,</span> is the plant scientist on the project. Dr. Christopher Neale, p<span>rofessor <span>in the College of Engineering</span>, is the irrigation engineer. Since their work has progressed, they’ve also brought on a staff member and many students. </span>
“Originally, we were trying to figure out how to get an independent indicator of how much water people use on their landscapes other than what they would self-report,” explained Endter-Wada. “We worked initially to develop a research tool to figure out what kind of landscape people would have in their yard, how much water they used and to calculate how appropriate that amount of water was to maintain their landscape.”
Endter-Wada said some of the results were surprising.
“The biggest finding that we uncovered was that automatic irrigation systems don’t actually save water,” she said. “In comparisons between people who water manually and people who use automatic irrigation systems, the overriding tendency is for waste to occur when people use automatic irrigation systems.”
Endter-Wada adds that this is because it is convenient to waste water with an automatic irrigation system. She said it’s also convenient to save water when you engage in watering your landscape manually.
“With manual watering, people are observing their plants more. They are seeing that certain spots are dry and certain spots are wet. They are visually looking at the yard.”
She also said that a person’s location will contribute to landscape and water use. If your house is at the mouth of the canyon and you have high winds, that will effect the way you water. If you are located at the valley floor, you might have shallow ground water and not need to water as often.
“We want to encourage people to work with their landscape and try different things. We want them to see how they can save water in their particular yard,” she said.
Endter-Wada knows that most people innocently overwater. Water waste is different than recycling waste. You can visibly see recycle waste sitting in your blue bin. Water waste seeps into the ground where people can’t see it. WaterMAPS gives people a better visual of their water use and encourages them to water more proficiently.
“WaterMAPS is important because we live in an arid region, we are subject to cycles of drought and we are in a state that is growing rapidly,” said Endter-Wada. “The more efficiently we can use water in whatever uses we put it to, the more it can be stretched to accommodate a lot of different needs and uses.”
For more information on WaterMAPS, visit their website at <a href=”http://www.watermaps.usu.edu/” target=”_blank”>watermaps.usu.edu</a>.