Real-world applications of decision support systems

In an interview with Chris O’Neill of Hydronumerics,  decision support systems (DSS) were discussed and how they can help governments and communities with making well-informed decisions for water management. This article looks at the ways that Hydronumerics has used DSS to support its water management work in India.

What is DSS and how is it used in watershed management?

A decision support system, in watershed management, uses data to assist in analysis and decision making, allowing people involved in management decisions to model potential scenarios before putting ideas into action.

Many if not all Australian water consultancies operate DSS, either developed in-house or drawn from a variety of specialist DSS available on the market.

For example, Chris O’Neill of Hydronumerics says their consultancy uses DSS’s in many of its water management projects, integrating sensor networks, data analysis, and numerical models to create and deliver observations, forecasts, and analytical tools. This means that any decisions made in the realm of water management can be backed by quantifiable data. This is an important aspect of understanding a source of water and how it is used.

The Hydronumerics’ DSS software can emulate all water resources, from lakes to estuaries, and explore factors like temperature, salinity, and biogeochemistry within surface waters as well as environmental flows. From days to years, the time span of how these factors impact water resources can be deeply explored through modelling, giving results based on actual data and research.

A case study: Hydronumerics’ DSS projects in India

Hydronumerics has brought its DSS success to India in the past, assisting in watershed management in a region that is facing high demand from agriculture, industry, and human use, with a dwindling supply. Water scarcity is an issue of growing importance in India and informed practices like DSS have helped bring the importance of good management to light.

One of the keys to implementing long-term and feasible water management is having a strong understanding of the water asset, how it is used and the values attached to it. A well-applied DSS allows for this complete understanding, owing to its careful and complete analysis of all of the data involved.

In India, Hydronumerics has done work with a cooperative in Gujarat, assessing how ocean outfalls from wastewater treatment plants have impacted the environment and developing water management tools and techniques within Rajasthan villages. This meets the common stakeholder objective for water management, using hard data and relevant information while factoring in user’s perspectives, habits, and ideals.

“What we’re trying to say is, let’s understand what the current impacts are and what the future impacts are,” explains Chris O’Neill. “It takes it back to that DSS… If we can balance all those things that’s what the environmental engineers, that’s what our job, should be for. How do we preserve environmental values but also make sure people have a livelihood?”

Hydronumerics also developed an online Water Quality Index (WQI) report card for the Ganga River in Uttar Pradesh, India, used to turn complicated environmental data into a user-friendly format that shares vital information with a wide variety of audiences.


By using DSS, water engineers and other professionals can make a big impact on the longevity of water resources around the world, without having to invest a lot of time or money at the outset. Projects will be more likely to succeed, benefiting the environment, industry, and human users of all global water assets.

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