Smart River GIS for Improved Decision Making

View the Flowchart

Figure 1: Smart River GIS information flow and data processing steps focused on creating a better understanding of river systems for management.

With an increasing human population and a finite supply of water, management of rivers and their associated ecosystems is becoming an ever-more complicated issue for decisionmakers across the Nation. Our understanding of river systems has improved because of developments in both technology and scientific understanding of ecosystems. Models have been used to predict flow and manage river systems for decades. As our knowledge of ecosystem processes and our ability to collect more precise data increase, we find that we are data rich. However, multiple riverine georeferenced data layers generally do not align to allow comparable results and outputs. Often, differences in the spatio-temporal dimension of existing data cause significant obstacles. The next important step in better managing our natural resources is to effectively combine datasets and multiple model inputs and outputs for an enhanced understanding of these complex systems.

Smart River GIS allows simultaneous views of river hydraulics, species-specific habitat, and fish population simulations, for a better understanding of complex ecological interactions. Here at the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, we used existing data sets from the South Platte River in Colorado to develop a prototype, multi-layered geographic information system (GIS) that resource managers can use to improve their understanding of river ecosystems and make better-informed management decisions.

The field data for this system were collected for a separate, completed research project (Waddle et al., in prep.). Our work focused specifically on aligning these data and various model inputs and outputs into one geospatially referenced database, then developing visualization products to display the information to resource managers.

We combined the following data layers, ensuring consistency in both spatial scale and geographic reference systems: physical river measurements (topography, flow, temperature, and geo-location), habitat characterization and location, and species life history. A flowchart of the information flow and data processing steps used to developSmart River GIS is shown in Figure 1. We anticipate further model development by applyingSmart River GIS to more complex river systems and validating its outputs with existing datasets.

To view animated demonstrations of this unique and straightforward way to examine river systems, select a link (Note: animations are in WMV format and will open automatically in Windows Media Player).

1-dimensional view 1-dimensional view with time-step graph
2-dimensional view 2-dimensional view with depth and velocity suitability and weighted usable area

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