Animated Tea-Cup Diagram Tool for Visualization of System-wide Conditions Over Time

Project ID: 631
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Cuhaciyan
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016
Keywords: None

Research Question

The teacup diagram ( has become a familiar and useful
snapshot of system-wide conditions in terms of current reservoir contents and streamflows. Given time series
data (observed or simulated) of streamflow and reservoir contents, the teacup diagram can be animated to show
changing river and reservoir conditions over time. Incorporating time series data for other variables (snowpack,
temperature, precipitation, water quality, etc.) would allow for simultaneous "play-back" of a range of system
conditions and enhance the ability of users to quickly recognize and explain cause and effect relationships
occurring throughout the system.
The research question to be addressed by this proposal is: Can the teacup diagram be adapted into a tool that
effectively and efficiently illustrates a range of spatial and temporal conditions overtime? Can this tool be equally
leveraged for the interpretation of observed conditions (supporting reservoir operations) and the interpretation of
modeling scenario output (supporting long term planning efforts)?

Need and Benefit

Reclamation staff are continually called upon to evaluate and explain basin conditions and reservoir system
operations not only to other staff and management, but also to outside stakeholders. Animated graphics are
unique in their ability to provide easily interpreted and intuitive illustrations of conditions that vary in both time
and space and can help to explain complicated concepts to people who are not already familiar with them. Due to
time constraints, staff typically rely upon more quickly generated figures such as hydrographs (time-varying at
individual points) and static maps or tea-cup diagrams (spatially varying for a particular moment in time).
A tool that readily generates intuitive reservoir system animations can be leveraged for a variety of purposes. It
can be used for real-time reservoir operations to investigate current conditions, inform operational decisions,
and help explain past operational decisions to stakeholders. It can also be used to validate hydrologic and water
resource model formulations by providing an efficient means to simultaneously 'play-back' model input and
output data and quickly assess whether the model is behaving appropriately. The tool can also be leveraged by
modelers to translate modelling results into visual system-wide summaries of model scenarios.
This tool could be expanded to illustrate a wide variety of conditions and metrics. For example the tool could be
used to illustrate system-wide impacts of various operational scenarios on water quality parameters such as
stream temperature and dissolved oxygen.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 4/4/17