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No leaks in software supporting global water management

Developing software to assess the impacts of different land uses, soil conditions, management practices and climate on water balance and water quality
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Water availability and nutrient leaching are the kinds of things that can keep a farmer and their agronomist awake at night.

Now, in partnership with the Queensland Government and industry collaborators, the University of Southern Queensland has developed an open-source digital platform that will help them sleep a little easier through supporting global water management research.

Led by Senior Research Fellow Dr Afshin Ghahramani from USQ’s Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, the HowLeaky platform offers users access to water balance and water quality models.

“HowLeaky is a software application that has been designed to assess the impacts of different land uses, soil conditions, management practices and climate, such as drought, on water balance and water quality,” Dr Ghahramani said.

“It can provide reliable and flexible results from limited input data for a wide range of land use studies and is best suited for benchmarking and comparison of land use practices and exploring and highlighting the impacts of changing key variables on the system response.”

Dr Ghahramani said the platform development – which commenced in 2017 as a partnership between USQ, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and Department of Resources and external collaborators – was a totally transparent model that supported data archiving and sharing.

“This means that researchers can use the HowLeaky model and share information easily through access to things like climate data, models and parameters, data sets from field catchment and plot studies focusing on hydrology and water quality,” he said.

“We know already that the Queensland Government and environmental consultants have found HowLeaky particularly useful for investigating the water quality and erosion effects of agricultural practices alongside the Great Barrier Reef such as irrigation, tillage, pesticide and nutrient applications.”

The platform can be used as a resource to support commercial operators developing new technology to help farmers make informed water and soil management decisions.

HowLeaky will also be used as a teaching tool in the new Bachelor of Environmental Science (Major Water Science) set to be offered from 2022 at the University of Southern Queensland.  

man standing in field
Senior Research Fellow Dr Afshin Ghahramani from USQ’s Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems has helped to develop software than can assess the impacts of different land uses, soil conditions, management practices and climate on water balance and water quality.