This book discusses the role of models in the social sciences and describes the problems and techniques in the construction and validation of an actual computer simulation of an actual computer simulation model: that of the Susquehanna River Basin. This study in the application of systems simulation to regional analysis was initiated when a group of utility companies asked a research team from the Columbus Laboratories of Battelle Memorial Institute to analyze the economy of the Susquehanna River Basin and define what role the basin's water resources would play in the economy's future development.
The relation of the Susquehanna River to the economy of its basin is unique in that it is a large river with relatively small demands made of its basin is unique in that it is a large river with relatively small demands made of it by sparsely populated subregions – a fact that proved significant to the relationship between the water sector of the river-basin model and its demographic and employment sectors. Members of the research group found that analysis of this particular planning region (which included portions of Maryland, Cenral Pennsylvania, and the Southern Tier of upper New York State counties) required that normally considered regional economic variables and those directly relating to regional water sources be incorporated within the same analytic framework. Once the problem was defined, the researchers found that the most effective technique for handling a large, nonlinear feedback system was that of dynamic computer simulation.
In this work the planning group rejects the notion of an “all-purpose model” and adopts a balanced and iterative approach to model-building, rather than the “one-shot” approach too often used in river-basin and transportation planning. Thus the model developed by the Susquehanna planning group represents a significant advancement and breaks new ground by coordinating the various sectors of a large and varied region – within a systems simulation framework – in one model.
While the book does not claim the Susquehanna model to be applicable to other regions or river basins without substantial alterations, additions, or deletions, many of the model's features (water is only one of many possible technical sectors) as well as the research strategy employed are applicable to problems in regional analysis. For the complex regional economic system analyzed is characteristic of those met in many regional studies programs – containing many variables as well as time lags, nonlinearities, and even discontinuities.
The economist, the demographer, the operations research analyst will each discover information of value throughout Systems Simulation for Regional Analysis, including suggestions for potential uses of regional simulation models.