Graphical Policy Analysis Tool

Project ID: 981
Principal Investigator: David King
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2004 and 2005
Keywords: None

Research Question

How do alternative river basin policies differ? We propose a graphical tool to help answer this question for planners and stakeholders. The tool will display river and reservoir data and statistics from multiple policies, hydrologic scenarios, and time periods. The graphs will easily be transferred to reports and environmental impact statements. With a projector, planners and stakeholders could use the graphs in meetings to interactively explore policy differences. Planners and stakeholders could use this information to create new policies taking the best of other alternatives to improve reliability of delivery, power generation, environmental restoration, or other objectives.

Need and Benefit

A prototype version of the Graphical Policy Analysis Tool (GPAT 1.1) was developed for specific policy to bridge the critical gap between voluminous data created by river basin modeling tools and the needs of policy makers to understand the differences in alternative policies.

GPAT is a visual basic add-in for Microsoft Excel that analyzes the data from other decision support tools such as RiverWare. GPAT allows users to select one of five graph types to compare statistical differences between policies and their evolution across time with respect to reservoir elevations, water deliveries, hydropower generation, conditions for endangered species, etc.. The statistics result from hydrologic inflow variation and include mean, standard deviation, median, percentiles, histogram, cumulative distribution functions, and probability of occurrence or exceedance.

The initial effort was successful. GPAT was used in creating the Interim Surplus Criteria EIS. While the benefits of the EIS lie in the future, GPAT displayed quantitative and objective evidence of the expected policy differences. Approximately 900 graphs were created for the EIS with GPAT, saving roughly a month of staff time. Reclamation has used GPAT in additional studies and stakeholder meetings with similar savings. Interactive use of GPAT with two environmental groups has helped to build good will and possibly reduce litigation. Perhaps most importantly, observing differences among policies invariably leads to creating hybrid policies that combine the best of alternative policies. Future hybrids could lead to improvements in hydropower generation, water quantity and quality, habitat for endangered species.

This success led to enhancement (GPAT 1.2) for additional studies. The proposed research will extend GPAT beyond these studies; bullet proofing, documentation, and web-based distribution to a wide base of users and additional functionality including additional time steps, statistics for a single hydrologic scenario, enhanced graphs, larger data sets, control of graphics, and connections to more data sets. In addition, the research will lead to peer-reviewed publication of GPAT studies.

The proposed research clearly fits within Reclamation's mission for the Water Resource Data Analysis Output Area (DS4), to "Improve the analysis and usability of critical water resources management data and information to facilitate effective, comprehensive planning and decision making." However, the research does not fit the narrower category of GIS stated in Reclamation's five-year needs and goals.

Contributing Partners


Last Updated: June 29, 2015