Virtual Streamlab a complex model

The U.S. government spends $1 billion annually in an attempt to restore waterways.

by Maureen Landsverk

College students today are overwhelmed. With the rigorous world of academia, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and cramming in as many extracurricular activities as necessary for career success, there is an astronomically small margin of error. The phenomenon of excessive multitasking is mirrored in the business of economic overhaul; basically everywhere you look, there are myriad causes for manifold problems, with just as many ways to âÄúfixâÄù them. This has become a theme in light of our national economic crisis; while we all scramble to find a way out, we are blindsided by a flood of different quandaries and issues pouring in. Recently, flooding has not only been a problem for the mental processes, but a literal problem itself. As the environment shoulders its way to the forefront of importance in public policy, research at the University of Minnesota reflects this. A new project, called the Virtual Streamlab, was introduced last week at the University. A newly implemented method of projecting water flow, the Streamlab is the most advanced technology of its kind, with a total of more than 90 million data points incorporated into its first simulation. The consequences of continual deterioration of rivers and streams in the United States alone are dire. Not only could this pattern of destruction spell the end of recreational aquatics, but efforts to restore waterways and prevent erosion and contamination have cost the U.S. more than $1 billion annually. Of the 3.5 million miles of rivers and streams coursing through the nation, 44 percent have already become unsafe due to sedimentation and worsening physical states. This denotes the growing restrictions on swimming, boating and other interaction with the natural aquatic world. The University research team âÄî led by Fotis Sotiropoulos, civil engineering professor and director of the UniversityâÄôs St. Anthony Falls Laboratory âÄî hopes to have designed a computer model capable of restoring streams to their original healthy states by producing virtual computerized counterparts. This system features complex algorithms, turbulence models and other advancements that, before their implementation, prevented the specific calculations and projections necessary to successfully install structures that were created to repair the damage already done and minimize erosion and other effects of flooding. Sotiropoulos is confident in the new advancements and hopeful for the future: âÄúThe process of stream restoration has had a rocky rate of success as practitioners have struggled to alter a natural system with countless unknowns. The need for more effective and reliable stream restoration strategies is clear, but the underlying physical processes which govern the behavior of a stream and its inhabitants are very complex. Our new virtual Streamlab should provide researchers with a deeper understanding of those complexities.âÄù By any measure, economic, fiscal or ecological, the environment is a top priority. What we do with our natural resources today imparts long-term consequences. This University research is of the greatest importance to us and to those who will follow after our natural footprints. Maureen Landsverk welcomes comments at [email protected]