AQUA TERRA Consultants
AQUA TERRA Services

ECI Conference: Fifty Years of Watershed Modeling; Past, Present and Future

September 24-26, 2012, Boulder, CO

Introductory Remarks

This was a gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of what we and many others believe commemorates one of the most important developments in the water resources and stormwater management professions and that, dear colleagues, is Watershed Modeling.

It was indeed a great honor to participate in this event, alongside many who’ve made invaluable contributions to the evolution, advancement, and continuing development and application of watershed modeling within the water resources field. We’d like to take the opportunity to make special mention of Dr. Norm Crawford, the co-founder and principal developer of the Stanford Watershed Model, which was the outcome of his 1962 Stanford University dissertation under Professor Ray Linsley. That beginning provided the origin and impetus to continue in this most essential field of watershed modeling, with the subsequent development of HSPF/BASINS, SWMM, STORM, SWRRB/SWAT, SLAMM and the others. During the Conference banquet we had the great privilege to hear Norm’s Keynote address, entitled “Watershed Modeling History, Philosophy, and Prognostication.”

The Conference was organized into three sessions, which logically started with the “Past,” focusing on the major model lineages and evolutionary history for the Stanford Model/HSPF/BASINS, SWMM, SWRRB/SWAT, USGS models RRM to GSFLOW, and ACOE HEC and ERDC models. This first session also included a dynamic panel of watershed modeling experts who provided reflections and discussions on capabilities, progress, lessons learned (mistakes and successes) as well as needs and future directions. The Panel was moderated by Paul Freedman (LimnoTech), and included Norm Crawford (Hydrocomp), Bill James (CHI), Larry Roesner (Colorado State University), Bill Sharffenberg (ACOE/HEC), and Jeff Arnold (USDA/ARS).

Session II focused on current capabilities and applications that have built on and extended the work of the founders of watershed modeling. We reviewed three examples where models have provided an essential support for decisions, sometime over a period of decades (i.e., Chesapeake Bay, Lake Tahoe). We looked at the most recent developments - from streamlined code and enhanced capabilities for SWMM, to models that add optimization and economics (i.e., SUSTAIN) and address social programs, to combined sewer, sanitary (e.g., SOAP), and storm sewer overflow tools, to linking data sources and models, and to the broad scale application of SWAT and HSPF to evaluate climate change across the United States.

The “Future” of watershed modeling is unbounded, as sampled in Session III of the Conference. After a well-documented reminder by Jeff McDonnell in the opening paper that our models should reflect watershed reality, the next presentations of this session reflected needs and reality checks of two agencies – the USGS and EPA – in their quest for models that advance the science as well as serving the needs of the public for the right technology for water resources and environmental protection. The next papers illustrated community activities among researchers that promote cooperative modeling and sharing of data in order to enhance the opportunities for modeling advancement, with complementary activities from academe, agencies (e.g., NCAR, NOAA), and CUAHSI. Other Session III papers demonstrated advances in modeling technology such as 2D surface modeling and coupling of data resources such as radar and remote sensing to provide remarkable graphics displays as well as cutting-edge tools for practitioners as well as researchers. The “Cloud” was cited more than once as an enormous resource for both computing and data, and examples were given on new ways to parameterize models for forecasting and evaluation of uncertainty. Finally, the last three papers accentuated the need for data resources that keep up with our modeling technology, and examples of innovative water data extraction from common resources, such as utilities, were given. The need for integrated water modeling suitable for design, operation and management of urban, agricultural and natural watersheds was heavily emphasized.

The main reason for this assembly was to provide a forum having the goal of educating and brightening our perspectives on watershed modeling by covering its origin and evolution, foundation and science, current capabilities, and future directions and expectations. All three sessions addressed a wide range of watershed modeling issues including scales, drainage-system type, land use and watershed characteristics, planning, design, real-time control, flood analyses, climate change, data resources, integrated water systems and total water management, and uncertainty. We believe that this conference resulted in us and in turn, our profession gaining a broadened knowledge-base for enhanced watershed modeling applications and a framework of strategic concepts and direction for both near-term and future research for watershed modeling improvements and advancement.

We would be remiss if we didn’t give special thanks to the entire Conference Executive Committee, which in addition to the Co-Chairs, Tony Donigian and Rich Field, comprised Wayne Huber, Leslie Shoemaker, Rick Hooper, Jeff Arnold, and Sri Rangarajan. We also recognize the contributions of special staff from AQUA TERRA, including John Imhoff and Eileen Regan, and Joong Lee from the US EPA. This entire group worked for almost two years diligently and essentially on a constant basis to put this Conference together. We are also very grateful to the support of CUAHSI, USEPA, NCAR, Tetra Tech, Michael Baker Associates, CDM-Smith, and last-but-not-least, the ECI staff including Executive Director, Barbara Hickernell, Associate Director, Kevin Korpics, Kathy Chan, Tressa D’Ottavio and our ECI Board Liaison, Dick Fein.

Tony Donigian, Co-Chair

Rich Field, Co-Chair

Programs and Link to Presentations