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How leaky is your water and soil?

Imagine if you could check the water balance in your catchment as easily as logging onto your bank account to check your finances?

A project being driven by University of Southern Queensland Senior Research Fellow Dr Afshin Ghahramani is turning this scenario into reality and making it possible to share the information to benefit everyone.

“HowLeaky is like a transaction account, it shows how much water goes into and leaves your catchment or paddock, but it can also show sediment and nutrient and leaching from areas”
Dr Ghahramani
Senior Research Fellow (Agricultural Systems Modelling)
The platform means vital work in areas like reef water quality, soil moisture levels and herbicide residue in soils can all be modelled by accessing HowLeaky’s base level data, saving time and money.

In addition to growing the way water and other aspects can be tracked through computer modelling, HowLeaky is an open-source digital platform that accesses and shares extensive datasets, that until now were generally expensive or difficult to access.

“We have converted HowLeaky from a desktop version to a cloud-based open science platform which means it’s the start of a worldwide community where researchers don’t have to start from scratch, they can access source codes and model parameters and contribute to the model development,” he said.

Further work and research by the scientific community will contribute to the collective knowledge and data being amassed in HowLeaky, therefore, growing the modelling community and compounding its usefulness.

“HowLeaky helps people to access the knowledge and data sets that required significant effort or expense to access. Now when researchers use our model and share the information, everyone can access, reproduce, do more. More researchers can then repeat the work and more knowledge can be developed by the scientific community to benefit agricultural and environmental systems” he said.

However, the platform is not only for researchers; commercial operators wanting to develop technology or applications that would be useful to growers or producers can access the data to make products with the potential to transform how landholders make decisions on managing water and soil.

The project commenced in 2017 as a partnership between UniSQ and The Queensland Government’s departments of Environment and Science, and Resources and external collaborators. 

Creating HowLeaky

To create HowLeaky the team at UnSQ took a Queensland Government software package which was originally developed in the 1990s called PERFECT and redesigned it into an open-source water balance and water quality modelling platform. HowLeaky is a water balance model, built on the data with sub-models that factor in plant dynamics, soil erosion, Nitrate, phosphorus and pesticide to simulate the quality of the water leaving agricultural systems at the paddock or field scale.

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