Water Science Software Institute

In 2012, RENCI and several partners received a conceptualization grant from the National Science Foundation, which could lead to the development of a multimillion-dollar Water Science Software Institute (WSSI) led by RENCI and UNC Chapel Hill with partners across the U.S.



The WSSI hopes to change the ecosystem of university-based research by translating the successful open source and community-powered development processes used by Red Hat into the realm of scientific research. Red Hat’s model, codified in a consulting offering called the Pathway to Open Source Enablement, involves developing open source software through a process that shares beta releases and incremental updates with a large user community. The community provides feedback and contributes improvements to the company’s products, and new versions are periodically released, resulting in software that is continuously improved and expanded through community input and collaboration.

The conceptualization grant will fund two workshops that will bring together scientists and technologists to define the functional requirements of the proposed institute and a community forum that will present the institute concept to the larger water science community and invite their input.  The project team will also host a software prototyping event, where participants will learn about and evaluate different methods of producing high-quality scientific software that incorporates feedback from the user community.

The project team will develop a strategic plan to present to the NSF, which could serve as the foundation of a full-fledged Water Science Software Institute.


National Science Foundation


Project Team

  • Stan Ahalt (Project Lead)
  • Ray Idaszak
  • Chris Lenhardt
  • Michael Stealey
  • Hong Yi
  • Karl Gustafson



This project brings together software developers and environmental scientists to develop software that will help in the development and building of Green Infrastructure (GI). GI is environmentally sustainable infrastructural architecture that utilizes vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage storm water, currently one of the major causes of pollution in urban areas and create healthier urban environments.  At the scale of a city or county, green infrastructure refers to the patchwork of natural areas that provides habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water.

The team is identifying and improving software programs which can be used to help overcome barriers to creating green infrastructure, focusing on modeling software like REHSYSS (Regional Hydro-ecological Simulation System), a GIS-based modeling framework which simulates how water, carbon and nutrients fluctuate through the environment on a watershed scale.


National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) at the University of Maryland

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

UNC Institute of the Environment


National Science Foundation