Tethys: A Platform for Water Resources Modeling and Decision Support Apps

Friday, 19 December 2014
Nathan R Swain, Scott D. Christensen, Norm Jones and E. James Nelson, Brigham Young University, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Provo, UT, United States
Cloud-based applications or apps are a promising medium through which water resources models and data can be conveyed in a user-friendly environment—making them more accessible to decision-makers and stakeholders. In the context of this work, a water resources web app is a web application that exposes limited modeling functionality for a scenario exploration activity in a structured workflow (e.g.: land use change runoff analysis, snowmelt runoff prediction, and flood potential analysis).

The technical expertise required to develop water resources web apps can be a barrier to many potential developers of water resources apps. One challenge that developers face is in providing spatial storage, analysis, and visualization for the spatial data that is inherent to water resources models. The software projects that provide this functionality are non-standard to web development and there are a large number of free and open source software (FOSS) projects to choose from. In addition, it is often required to synthesize several software projects to provide all of the needed functionality. Another challenge for the developer will be orchestrating the use of several software components. Consequently, the initial software development investment required to deploy an effective water resources cloud-based application can be substantial.

The Tethys Platform has been developed to lower the technical barrier and minimize the initial development investment that prohibits many scientists and engineers from making use of the web app medium. Tethys synthesizes several software projects including PostGIS for spatial storage, 52°North WPS for spatial analysis, GeoServer for spatial publishing, Google Earth™, Google Maps™ and OpenLayers for spatial visualization, and Highcharts for plotting tabular data. The software selection came after a literature review of software projects being used to create existing earth sciences web apps. All of the software is linked via a Python-powered software development kit (SDK). Tethys developers use the SDK to build their apps and incorporate the needed functionality from the software suite. The presentation will include several apps that have been developed using Tethys to demonstrate its capabilities.

Based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1135483.