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New Stanford Software Helps Identify Cost-Effective Ways to Invest in Clean Water

A stream in Monterrey, Mexico.

The RIOS program was developed with partners in Latin America, where countries such as Mexico are experimenting with new conservation financing and water security mechanisms known as water funds that are designed to improve the reliability of clean water.

Credit: The Nature Conservancy

Stanford University researchers have developed the Resource Investment Optimization System (RIOS), an open source program designed to help discover cost-effective investments for clean and reliable water.

Working with partners in Latin America as part of the Nature Capital Project, the researchers deployed RIOS in Colombia and realized improvements in return on watershed investment by up to 600 percent over previous methods.

Using local knowledge and preferences, RIOS prioritizes the most effective investments within a given budget, with suggestions such as reducing deforestation or paying farmers not to cultivate near a stream. RIOS uses hydrological computer models that assign values to water quality and other environmental factors and takes various requirements into consideration.

"This problem of where to invest in watersheds used to be so hard that people just paid any landowners who were willing to participate in water fund programs," says Stanford researcher Heather Tallis. "With RIOS, we can bring science and practicality into the picture."

The Latin American Water Funds Partnership is funding RIOS as part of its goal to develop 32 new water funds and restore over 7 million watershed acres.

From Stanford Report (CA)
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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