AQUA TERRA Consultants
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Technical Support for Data for Environmental Modeling (D4EM) Collaborative Development Project

Client: U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Washington D.C.


The primary goal of this project was to extend the development and support of GIS-based software tools for the access, display and processing of geo-spatial data. Modeling teams at the U.S. EPA Ecosystems Research Division (ERD) of the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Office of Water (OW) sought a common GIS-based software and data system. Specifically, this project involved providing technical support to the ERD modeling community for the BASINS and MapWindow software systems.


The project team was comprised of AQUA TERRA Consultants as the prime contractor and Idaho State University (ISU) and the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Texas A&M University (TAES) as sub-contractors. AQUA TERRA Consultants’ primary function during this project was to provide technical direction, software testing and administrative support while ISU had primary responsibility for GIS related software development and TAMU provided technical support for model integration.

Figure 1: A screenshot of the BASINS MapWindow GUI.

Development of the Map Window Interface

A major technical aspect of this project was to finish converting objects in the MapWindow environment to modular Microsoft .NET tools which was begun by members of the Open Source Community and ISU. Conversion and development efforts included:

  • Finalization of the MapWindow Geoprocessing API and development of Map Algebra, Selection Tools, Hydraulic Terrain Analysis and other specialized functions.
  • Development of a new Geoprocessing Graphical User Interface built as a MapWindow plugin.
  • Implementing spatial database support allowing attachment of MySQL, Oracle and PostGres data as native MapWinGIS shapefiles and other non-native formats such as OGR.
  • Conversion of the MapWindow ActiveX environment to .NET architecture to implement new features such as layer partial transparency and full object oriented architecture.

The result of these efforts gave rise to MapWindows 6.0, the first full .NET implementation of the MapWindow GIS suite of tools.

Figure 2: The D4EM component diagram.

Development of the Data Manager Component of D4EM

Implementation of the Data Manager involved creating both GIS functionality as well as standard data processing steps such as statistical data manipulation. The Data Manager component of D4EM is responsible for intermediate data processing required to transform “raw” data (i.e., data retrieved from an original data source) into a form required for model processing. The data download tool (EDDT) that was developed by EPA staff is responsible for connecting to data sources and downloading data to a local cache. The Data Manager was implemented as a component of the BASINS modeling system originally developed for the Office of Water.

Implementation of SWAT with FRAMES

The FRAMES modeling system provides a standards-based modeling infrastructure that facilitates the linked execution of environmental models. The Soil & Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was implemented within FRAMES. AQUA TERRA and TAES built FRAMES dictionary files containing details about all SWAT model inputs and outputs. The SWAT parameter database range tables were used as a starting point for building dictionary files. An automated process was used to build the dictionary files so that changes to SWAT databases can be reflected in the associated FRAMES dictionaries. A single table within SWAT was developed for integration within FRAMES. The FRAMES Module Editor is used to place Metadata about the SWAT model into the FRAMES system. Data “wrappers” were developed for the off the shelf SWAT model. These wrappers take data stored in FRAMES and translate it into text input files required by SWAT. The wrappers also translate SWAT text output into a format usable by FRAMES (and other models linked downstream).