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Leveraging Environmental Data and Models with Web-based Decision Support Systems (DSSs)

Author(s): A case study of DSS application for groundwater management in Guantao, China
IWRA 2020 Online Conference - Addressing Groundwater Resilience under Climate Change
THEME 3. Contribution of Technology to Groundwater Resilience
Author(s): Yu Li, W. Kinzelbach, Lu Wang, Ning Li, Haijing Wang, Beatrice Marti, Silvan Ragettli

Dr. Yu Li, Prof. Dr. W. Kinzelbach, Dr. Lu Wang, Dr. Ning Li
IfU, ETH Zurich

Dr. Haijing Wang, Dr. Beatrice Marti, Dr. Silvan Ragettli
hydrosolutions, Zurich

Keyword(s): environmental Decision Support Systems (EDSS), groundwater management, Guantao County, Quota Planning, Shiny App, Docker


(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis

The growing complexity of water management problems in the era of “big data” has aroused more adoptions of environmental decision support systems (EDSS) for policy support. In this work, we developed a modern EDSS featuring web-accessibility, interactive visualization and cloud computation. The EDSS consolidates different data and models, with the goal of supporting the sustainable groundwater use in an overexploited region in Guantao County, China.


(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed

The developed EDSS integrates technical products from the Sino-Swiss China groundwater management project, and includes database, groundwater models, irrigation calculator, crop mapper and water quota planning tool. The system implements a user-friendly interface to reduce technical barriers so stakeholders can appreciate complex scientific tools and simulation results. The software construction adopts a development framework that allows environmental researchers with little background in software engineering to achieve a modern web-based EDSS in a cost-effective way.


(c) Methodology or approach used

In the EDSS developed for Guantao County, a SQL server is constructed for archiving measured/processed information and feeding inputs to modelling tools. Existing models are coupled by either direct implementation in the system or by connecting to external programs via input/output files processing. In the end, the database and models are interconnected to build up a management model for planning groundwater pumping.
The system is developed mainly in R language and a number of R packages, and is deployed in a cloud context with Docker based software. The entire EDSS is built upon free and open source software, and suitable for modern cloud computing context.


(d) Results and conclusions derived from the project

The system has been running on a server for a while, with several training workshops given during project meetings. According to stakeholders’ feedback, the EDSS is simple to use and addresses their practical needs in groundwater management, such as  quantification of the sustainable groundwater level, and exploration of different management alternatives to achieve sustainable use.


(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice

Sustainable groundwater management requires comprehensive work on monitoring, modeling and policy implementation. Our example shows that how a modern DSS featuring open source software, cloud accessibility and interactive visualization can open opportunities to leverage research models into tools accessible to stakeholders and ultimately contribute to decision support. The concept and the development framework can be applied in other water management problems.

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