IWRM Action Hub
IWRM Tool - C2

Decision Support Systems

C2 Decision Support Systems

A Decision Support System (DSS) is an interactive system that goes beyond modelling, data, and information to include its management, analysis, evaluation, presentation, accessibility, and communication for enhanced decision making. DSS can integrate different types of information to promote a more holistic systems thinking that considers multiple facets of complex problems. This sub-section offers DSS Tools that can support in the decision making processes.

Introduction to Decision Support Systems

DSS aim to the enhance quality of decision making through easy-to-use interactive systems. DSS integrate diverse sets of knowledge, data, and information from multiple disciplines to account for the multiple facets and complexities associated with water resources management. Furthermore, DSS are coupled with analytical tools and visual methods that support interpretation of data from different perspectives making it useable for decision makers. They may include data from hydrologic stations, meteorological stations, experts, and local knowledge. DSS provide a knowledge base for holistic responses for IWRM (Giupponi and Sgobbi, 2013).

A DSS can help bridge the gap between researchers and policy makers and act as a catalyst of trans-disciplinary research and improved decision making (Cai, Marston and Ge, 2015) (Figure 1). It connects the scientific research and experience of practitioners to decision makers while also transferring knowledge and awareness amongst stakeholders. Having an improved understanding regarding water systems and its interlinkages with other systems, creates a common language among the stakeholders, promoting effective communication (Carmona, Ortega and Bromley, 2013). This also fosters multi-stakeholder partnerships (Tool B3.05) and allows decision making processes to explore different alternative scenarios of basin development, hydrology, water use, and management policies. 


Figure 1. DSS in the context of IWRM process (Adapted from Georgakakos, 2007) 

Generic Components of DSS

DSS provide a basis for decision making by considering key information which are tailored to the decision-making process and context. A typical DSS for IWRM includes five main components which are as follows (Georgakakos, 2007):

  • Data acquisition system: This consists of data collection systems such as rain-gages, stream-gages, satellites, radars, surveys and interviews.
  • User-data-model interface: The interface allows data to the database and provide easy access to data, analysis tools and models.
  • Database: A depository of diverse sets of data and information including that of analysis results, model results and raw data.
  • Data analysis tools: User-friendly means to visualise and analyse various data sets
  • Set of interlinked models: The set of interlinked models allows users to gain insights into different aspects of water management and its interconnections such as with land-use, ecosystems, socio-economics and energy systems.