From community preferences to design: Investigation of human-centered optimization algorithms in web-based, democratic planning of watershed restoration

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 1:40 PM
Meghna Babbar-Sebens, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States and Snehasis Mukhopadhyay, Indiana University - Purdue University – Indianapolis, Department of Computer & Information Science, Indianapolis, IN, United States
Web 2.0 technologies are useful resources for reaching out to larger stakeholder communities and involve them in policy making and planning efforts. While these technologies have been used in the past to support education and communication endeavors, we have developed a novel, web-based, interactive planning tool that involves the community in using science-based methods for the design of potential runoff management strategies on their landscape. The tool, Watershed REstoration using Spatio-Temporal Optimization of Resources (WRESTORE), uses a democratic voting process coupled with visualization interfaces, computational simulation and optimization models, and user modeling techniques to support a human-centered design approach. The tool can be used to engage diverse watershed stakeholders and landowners via the internet, thereby improving opportunities for outreach and collaborations. Users are able to (a) design multiple types of conservation practices at their field-scale catchment and at the entire watershed scale, (b) examine impacts and limitations of their decisions on their neighboring catchments and on the entire watershed, (c) compare alternatives via a cost-benefit analysis, (d) vote on their “favorite” designs based on their preferences and constraints, and (e) propose their “favorite” alternatives to policy makers and other stakeholders. In this presentation, we will demonstrate the effectiveness of WRESTORE for designing alternatives of conservation practices to reduce peak flows in a Midwestern watershed, present results on multiple approaches for engaging with larger communities, and discuss potential for future developments.