Ed Sudicky occasionally pushes a sports car beyond 250 km-h on a race track. But he is just as fascinated by the performance of water systems, where speeds below ground might be measured in as little as millimetres per decade.

Ed Sudicky, University of WaterlooEd Sudicky, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Waterloo.

Sudicky, a professor of earth and environmental sciences in the Faculty of Science, whose interest in hydrology at the University of Waterloo goes back 35 years, recently turned his research into an enterprise.

“We like to think of ourselves as specialists when it comes to solving complex water-related problems for industries or government agencies,” Sudicky says of Aquanty Inc., a startup offering high-definition computer modelling of how water resources systems react to change.

Aquanty incorporated in January 2012. Clients include companies involved in mine closure and the Alberta oil sands, as a few examples.

Its root lies in HydroGeoSphere, a Waterloo-developed computer program Sudicky and his team have nurtured through more than 25 years of successively stronger computing modelling developments.

“As soon as a new (computer chip) comes out, we take full advantage of it and take it to its limit,” he says.

He and the team create sophisticated algorithms and complex three-dimensional computer simulations that can forecast how a watershed will responds to climate change, for example. The simulations can also take into consideration other factors like soil properties, underground features like clay beds and changes to the land surface.

A local case study

Sudicky and his team, including Professor Peter Forsyth in the School of Computer Science, are working on a project under the Southern Ontario Smart Computer Innovation Platform - a high-resolution 3D model of the 6,800-square-kilometre Grand River watershed, home to almost a million people.

Sudicky, together with Aquanty and Professor Dick Peltier and his research group at the University of Toronto, are developing a dynamic climate-driven HydroGeoSphere model of the watershed to answer such questions as how might climate change impact the watershed over the next century.

As an advisor to Aquanty, he leads research, leaving the business skills behind building a startup to president and chief executive officer Dieter Hensler. Hensler is former president of Waterloo Maple Inc., and one of the founders of Communitech.

Hensler says: “Leading a business with a team of the finest and globally recognized scientists in hydrogeology and numerical analysis is a privilege.”