Agricultural WAter Resources Decision Support (AWARDS)

An automated information system to assist water users by providing easy access to rainfall and daily crop water use estimates. Develop, maintain, and pass efficient water usage practices on to the next generation.

Purpose of the AWARDS System

The purpose of the AWARDS system is to improve the efficiency of water management and irrigation scheduling by providing guidance on when and where to deliver water, and how much to apply. The AWARDS system has been designed for use by reservoir system operators, water district staff, and on-farm irrigators.

Access to NEXRAD radar rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET) estimates

  • Improved efficiency in reservoir operations, water delivery, and on-farm irrigation scheduling.
  • Reduced operating costs and increased crop yields and profits.
  • Water conservation to meet increasing demands and improve water quality.

The AWARDS system is an Operational Water Management Measure that agricultural water districts and irrigation organizations can include in their water conservation and management plans to achieve more efficient water use.

AWARDS System Technology

The AWARDS system is based on modern remote sensing, communication, computer, and Internet technologies.

One such remote sensing technology is weather surveillance radar. A network of over 140 NEXRAD (NEXt generation weather surveillance RADar) systems have recently been installed in the contiguous United States. They have been located so that the radars' 230 km radius coverages overlap in most areas (mountain blockage is a problem in some areas).

NEXRAD Radar Network station locations

NEXRAD weather surveillance radar tower with antenna/radome Automatic Weather Station

How the AWARDS System Works

  • NEXRAD Doppler weather surveillance radars collect data.
  • Real-time automatic weather stations collect data.
  • Radar and weather data are transmitted to central computers for processing.
  • AWARDS system computer automatically collects NEXRAD radar rainfall estimates, weather station data, and the National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts from the central computers.
  • AWARDS system computer prepares the rainfall images and chart products for Internet access.
  • Water managers and users access the AWARDS products via the Internet.
  • Water district staff and on-farm irrigators make operational decisions based on guidance information provided by the AWARDS system.

Schematic diagram of the AWARDS system

The AWARDS System will automatically integrate 1-hr (loop) and 24-hr NEXRAD radar rainfall estimates (much better estimates than available from watching TV weather reports)...

with 24-hr surface weather station data...

  • mean temperature
  • mean relative humidity
  • mean wind speed
  • rain gage rainfall accumulations
  • total solar radiation

and uses the NEXRAD radar rainfall estimates and surface weather station data...

  • crop ET equations
  • local terrain and soil information
  • effective rainfall estimation procedures
  • local daily max/min temperature normals
  • quantitative precipitation forecasts (QPF)
  • watershed/reservoir systems
  • irrigation water distribution systems

to provide information to the water managers and users, such as

  • NEXRAD radar rainfall and watershed rainfall water volume estimates
  • effective rainfall estimates
  • ET estimates for use in determining crop water use requirements

Efficient use of the AWARDS system will help to meet the increasing water demands of the western states while protecting the environment and the public's investment.

Send comments, questions, suggestions to:

Tom Pruitt (, Civil Engineer
Bureau of Reclamation
Technical Service Center, Denver CO

Last Updated: 8/16/17