Basin-scale real-time flow and salt load visualization for TMDL compliance

Project ID: 3942
Principal Investigator: Jun Wang
Research Topic: Water Resource Data Analysis
Funded Fiscal Years: 2014
Keywords: water quality, forecasting, simulation, decision support, data management

Research Question

Over the past decade there has been an increased call for real-time access to environmental sensor data as sensor prices have fallen, data telemetry options have expanded and opportunities for cloud server-based storage have mushroomed. Commercial vendors such as YSI (Yellow Springs International) have developed real-time data acquisition hubs for common SDI-12 and 4-20 mA-based sensors coupled with web servers for dissemination through the world wide web. These hubs utilize radio telemetry to move data from the point of collection (data nodes)to cellular-based access nodes which are polled by a central server at regular (usually 15 minute intervals). Multi-hop, self annealing and other smart telemetry options have been programmed into these systems to minimize hiccups and down-time. Impressive though these systems are they are all currently limited in two ways:

(1) They typically provide data at a single monitoring location when queried and the user cannot typically see data simultaneously within the whole monitoring system.
(2) They do not accommodate data fusion - for example multiplying flow and salt concentration to calculate load throughout the monitoring network.

This project will address the following research questions:

1. Can we develop a GIS-based real-time data reporting system at the basin-scale that will address both of these limitations?
2. Can such a software system be deployed as both a PC and web-based system to maximize utility to agency personnel and stakeholders?
3. Is it possible to merge seamlessly CDEC (California Data Exchange) and private server data in this application?
4. Is it possible to develop an architecture that can be utilized within a next-generation water quality forecasting and simulation model for a San Joaquin River Basin application?

Need and Benefit

Simulation and forecasting have become integral for optimal water quantity and quality management in river basins, worldwide. However the suite of tools available to perform these complex management functions have not kept pace with advances in database, real-time data processing, GIS, sensor and remote sensing technologies. Many of the river basin simulation models in everyday use are based on 1970's and 1980's technology. There is significant inertia in the water management agencies to embark on long-term hardware and software innovation enterprises given limited budgets and the necessity to accomplish studies at hand in a timely manner. The issues confronting agency personnel, regulators and water managers in this River Basin provide exemplars of the same issues found all over the world. Forecast simulation is a poorly evolved capability within the federal, state and local water agencies since it requires real-time access to all data resources needed to run a simulation model with a real-time quality assurance capability to make sure that information being used within the forecast simulation model is reasonable, reliable and meets a minimum threshold of accuracy. Technologies exist to perform these tasks but have yet to be incorporated in any of the simulation models in everyday use. The long-term goal of this proposal is to formulate and develop the next generation water supply and water quality forecasting tool that will become a standard for agency and stakeholder use within Reclamation and have potential use in water-quality impaired river basins nation-wide.

The visualization tool proposed for the San Joaquin River Basin is an extension of a successful tool developed specifically for Grassland Water District in response to a request from their Water Master for a better tool for integrating salt loading information over their 50 station sensor network. Their current YSI-EcoNET real-time data acquisition and data dissemination system is also limited in only being able to share data collected and not calculated data - salt load is the product of flow, EC and a unit conversion factor. The conceptual model is consistent between the two products - although the Basin-wide tool also has a political utility - in being able to show publicly who within the Basin is consistently discharging the highest salt loads to the River. This non-regulatory peer pressure approach can be a remarkably effective way of exerting stakeholder police power whereby the stakeholders find ways of performing self regulation.

The final work product, although applied to the San Joaquin Basin, should have utility region-wide since many of the ESRI MapObject routines are generic and the parser and color rendering tools should be readily customizable to other river and watershed conveyance configurations and network densities.

* The GIS based tool will show the temporal and spatial variation of flow (stage and flow rate) and water quality (concentration and load) for a waterbody network (a chain of water bodies including connected rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs) through an animated display of flow rate, water quality concentration and load in a GIS map for part or all water bodies in the selected time period and area.
* The GIS based tool can provide time series (hourly or daily) graph and data for flow, stage, water quality concentration and load for any user selected waterbody(s) displayed on the GIS map.
* The tool can sum the load (such as daily salt load) of user selected canals or rivers. For example, summarize total salt load discharged into the SJR from several user selected canals.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Basin-scale real-time flow and salt load model-based visualization tools for forecasting and TMDL compliance (final, PDF, 1.6MB)
By Laura Congdon, Dr. Nigel William Trevelyan Quinn and Dr. Jun Wang
Report completed on June 06, 2014

This white paper reviews a number of model-based water quality simulation models that can serve as visualization tools as well as two recent examples of data visualization applied to salt management in the San Joaquin Basin. The paper also suggests simulation models and visualization tools that might be capable of replacing the WARMF-SJR model, the most popular model in current use by Reclamation and other State agencies to simulate salt management actions and forecast future flow and salinity c

Visualizing Salinity in the San Joaquin River (final, PDF, 664KB)
By Jun Wang
Publication completed on September 30, 2014

This bulletin summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

Return to Research Projects

Last Updated: 6/22/20