About the ILRDSS - Need for DSS

Need for a Decision Support System

Major restoration efforts are under way to improve hydrologic characteristics, water quality, and habitats along the Illinois River and its watershed. A major challenge is accurately defining the watershed hydrology and river hydraulics so that watersheds and rivers are managed to promote and sustain ecological restoration while maintaining economic functions of the river.

The issues that need to be examined on a watershed basis for the Illinois River are not only limited to hydrology and hydraulics, but also include a range of issues related to water quality, sediment transport, groundwater/surface water interaction, impact of climate change or fluctuation, ecosystem restoration, and economic and societal impacts. Without basinwide analyses, conclusions and recommendations will be limited to selected sites, and broad application of results will be impractical. There is a need for developing an integrated system that can help decision-makers address these issues on a watershed basis; however, no formal evaluation tools for integrated watershed management currently exist. In addition, the many restoration efforts underway are not well coordinate or integrated.

A comprehensive support system would provide state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, local agencies, and residential stakeholders a better means for organizing, accessing, and evaluating a wide range of information and alternative strategies, and to establish informed and scientifically sound positions regarding the major issues. Benefits from such a support system include better access to information, improved evaluation tools, enhanced communication, and better project management.

To this end, the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) initiated development of the Illinois Rivers Decision Support System (ILRDSS) in 1999 to support implementation of the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the Illinois River. Demissie et al. (1999) summarize the initial project concept and structure outlined by early ILRDSS efforts.

Implementation of the Illinois River 2020 federal/state initiative will require substantial scientific support and access to high-quality information, and the evolving ILRDSS project was included as the primary support system for dissemination of scientific tools and information. Activities concentrated on developing the conceptual design of the ILRDSS for insertion in IR2020 legislative drafts, increasing outreach efforts to inform potential collaborators about proposed system capabilities and garner their support, and coordinating communication and development efforts among the agencies involved.