Water Decision Support Tool Examples

NOAA is collaborating with partners and leveraging existing networks and tools to foster the development of new weather and water decision support services, creating accessible solutions that work across multiple platforms. Three decision support tool examples are provided below.


Digital Coast Decision Support Tool Example 1 banner graphic

The NOAA-sponsored Digital Coast website is focused on helping communities address coastal issues and meeting the needs of the coastal management community. The website provides not only coastal data, but also the tools, training, and information needed to make these data truly useful. For example, a case study from Mississippi and Louisiana depicts how coastal communities are susceptible to a variety of natural and man-made hazards. Many of the residents who live in these areas are vulnerable because of age, income, disabilities, or other factors and require special assistance when events occur. Having tools to quickly communicate vulnerability data is critical in planning for and responding to hazard events. The Red Cross is using the Digital Coast’s Coastal County Flood Exposure Snapshot to communicate vulnerability information to its network members. This tool captures the numbers of elderly and impoverished residents living in the floodplain as well as the number of critical facilities located there, which is valuable information for pre-event and recovery planning. Organizations can find it difficult to locate and analyze vulnerability data and present that information to others in a meaningful way. Digital Coast resources allow organizations like the Red Cross to communicate vulnerabilities using easy-to-understand tables and graphs that will help inform hazard planning efforts. Learn more at


U.S. Drought Monitor Decision Tool Example 2 banner graphic

Recognizing drought before it intensifies can reduce impacts and save money. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a weekly map of drought conditions. The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced jointly by NOAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The USDA uses the Drought Monitor to trigger disaster declarations and eligibility for low-interest loans. The Farm Service Agency uses it to help determine eligibility for their Livestock Forage Program (LFP), and the Internal Revenue Service uses it for tax deferral on forced livestock sales due to drought. State, local, tribal and basin-level decision makers use it to plan and initiate drought responses, ideally along with other more local indicators of drought. The map is based on measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country. Experts synthesize the best available data from multiple sources and work with local observers to localize the information as much as possible. Eleven climatologists from partner organizations take turns serving as the lead author each week. The authors examine all the data and use their best judgment to reconcile any differences in what different sources are saying. Learn more at www.droughtmonitor.unl.eduoffsite link.


Harmful Algal Bloom Tracker Decision Support Tool Example 3 banner graphic

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in the Great Lakes have increased in recent decades. The NOAA Great Lakes HAB Tracker is an experimental tool that combines remote sensing, monitoring, and modeling to produce daily 5-day forecasts of bloom transport and concentration. For example, in a 2014 Toledo, Ohio water crisis, half a million people were warned to avoid drinking the water due to toxins overwhelming a water treatment plant in Lake Erie’s western basin. The HAB Tracker experimental tool was subsequently developed to provide real-time updates of blooms in Lake Erie, providing situational awareness of blooms between regular bi-weekly bulletins. This increased awareness could potentially help water treatment plant managers to prepare if a bloom appears to be moving towards a water intake line. The NOAA Great Lakes HAB and Hypoxia program is a collaborative effort between scientists at NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER). Learn more at