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Decision Support System for Water Infrastructure Security (DSS-WISE)

Dams and levees comprise one of 16 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource sectors identified by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. Their failure can generate catastrophic floods, leading to loss of life, urban and agricultural property damage, environmental degradation, and cascading failures in other critical sectors. Several thousand high- and significant-hazard U.S. dams have no emergency action plan (EAP). Moreover, 114,000 miles of levee systems protect highly developed areas with critical infrastructures. Current engineering practices based on one-dimensional (1D) modeling can’t handle mixed-flow regimes and may lead to large errors in flood depth and arrival time in case of nonchannelized flow over flat areas. Moreover, the generation of two-dimensional (2D) flood maps for consequence analysis involves time-consuming interpolation based on a digital elevation map.

  • Average cost of a dam safety study is about $30,000
  • Costs for dam safety analysis of 7,200 dams needing Emergency Action Plans is $216 million
  • Analysis provided by the DSS-WISE tool is free to end users

Project Overview

ArcGIS flow chart(Dr. Mustafa Altinikar)

Problem: There exists no free M&S tool for dams.

Solution: DSS-WISE

What is it:

DSS-WISE is an integrated software package that combines a state-of-the-art, 2D numerical flood model and a series of geo-graphic information system (GIS)-based decision support tools. It is designed for water infrastructural safety studies. DSS-WISE can simulate dam/levee breach floods, fluvial floods, storm/tidal surges, landslide waves, and their consequences. It was designed to eliminate scientific and technological gaps of existing flood simulation and flood damage evaluation practice and to improve engineering and decision-making practice by providing simulation and analyses capabilities with unprecedented realism and robustness.

This was a multi-agency effort begun by:

  • DHS Science & Technology Directorate  - who later Partnered with …
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency - National Dam Safety Program
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Critical Infrastructure Protection & Resilience (CIPR) Program
  • Office of Infrastructure Protection - National Protection and Programs Directorate Dam Sector

Developed by researchers at the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (UM-NCCHE) of the University of Mississippi, DSS-WISE has three principal modules: 1) a GIS-based preprocessor and graphical user interface (GUI) to set up a problem and prepare data to input; 2) a 2D numerical model, CCHE2D-FLOOD, to handle mixed-flow regimes, wetting, and drying and; 3) a GIS-based postprocessor with modules for flood mapping and consequence analysis.

The graphical user interface is programmed as an extension of ESRI’s ArcGIS. The user carries out operations using specially designed toolbars. Simulations can be set up and run with various levels of data availability, using the GIS-based GUI.

Map of USA

From Feb 2012 – April 2013, the web-based tool has been used by 36 users in 23 states to support:

  • Analyses of 141 distinct dams 
  • Simulations of 216 dam breaks
  • Average of 15 dam breaks / day
  • Est. cost savings to states for safety analyses of 141 dams:  approximately $4.2 million

DSS-WISE is used by the DHS Dams Sector Branch; the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) alone uses the software in its Vicksburg and Nashville Districts, at its Engineering Re-search and Development Center (ERDC), and at headquarters.

DSS-WISE Deployment in 2010, 2011, 2012

2010 – USACE Operations

  • DSS-WISE has been used to assist USACE in military operations key to national security. These include simulation of hypothetical dam and levee failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and various other places around the world to provide critical information for the safety and security of American troops.

2010 – Pakistan Flood

  • DSS-WISE was used by USACE’s ERDC to simulate the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and to provide round-the-clock situational awareness to the U.S. and Pakistani governments in estimating the time it would take flood waters to recede.

2011 – Mississippi River Flood

  •  DSS-WISE was used to run various what-if-scenarios to aid federal and state agencies with emergency management activities in the Mississippi Delta and other areas impacted by the historic 2011 flooding of the Mississippi River.  The tool was used to simulate hypothetical breaches near Tunica, MS.

2012 – Hurricane Isaac

  • FEMA described DSS-WISE as a “vital asset during the response effort” in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.  The tool was used to provide real time dam inundation information during emergency operations for LA and MS to assess possible flooding upstream and downstream associated with the overtopping and possible failure of Pearl River.

Additional Resources

Last Updated: 10/21/2021
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