The water we need to live doesn’t start life at the tap. It’s there when we want it, but by the time we decide to make coffee, water has been through a long journey from underground reservoirs to wells, passing through a network of cracks and porous rocks, until finally is caught in pipes and transported to our kitchen.
Managing drinking water supplies depends on what we know about underground water sources (known as aquifers) and on how well we understand how groundwater flows beneath our feet. City planners do this with the help of computer simulations involving many parameters, including terrain images, river flow data or the specifics of the regional geology.
The most effective simulations – the ones that really empower managers to make the best decisions – are often the most detailed. And the more detailed they are, the more demanding they will be in terms of computer processing and memory resources. This is where the grid-enabled LizzaPAKP application can help.
Velibor Isailovic at the Jaroslav Cerni Institute of Water Resources in Belgrade, Serbia is leading the development of LizzaPAKP, an application designed to simulate groundwater flow using a finite element numerical model. The application integrates PAKP (a numerical solver which uses Darcy’s Law of flow to describe how water moves through porous materials) with Lizza a user-friendly desktop interface.
Lizza allows the end-user to build a 3D model customised to the problem the researcher is investigating. The model can be adapted to specific inputs including terrain contours, the rock type and its properties (e.g. how porous is it?) or the characteristics of river-beds.
The application has full 3D modelling capabilities and can calculate well capacities, groundwater flows or the amount of time to exhaust a specific well according to the flow rate, amongst others. This information can then be used to help local authorities or construction firms to plan, manage and design drinking water supply facilities for an area.
LizzaPAKP is also well-suited to be used for educational purposes, as a ‘hands-on’ way for civil engineering and geological sciences students to learn the mechanisms of groundwater flow.
LizzaPAKP was originally designed for use on a single machine by a single user and since it’s inception has become a popular application within the community. In 2008 Milos Ivanovic, from the University of Kragujevac, started adapting it for use on the grid. ‘Gridfiying’ LizzaPAKP has improved the speed and performance for users, thanks to the additional processing resources provided by the grid infrastructure but is not the only benefit. The user experience has also improved and allows easy archiving of large output files on the infrastructure’s storage resources.
Since the application's end-users are civil engineers and other researchers not necessarily familiar with grid computing, the developers tried to keep the interface as close to the original application as possible. This allows users to concentrate on the practical problems, without having to learn a completely new set of IT skills.