For managing rivers

eWater Source can be used in planning and operations modes for river management.

Source provides Australia’s first nationally applicable integrated modelling software combining river and catchment modelling to support water planning and river operations across the country. Its use in river management is to simulate the physical and management aspects of river systems at a range of spatial and temporal scales. It can be run in one of two interchangeable operations and planning ‘modes’. The first mode is used to inform day-to-day operational decisions. The second mode is used to inform policy decisions relating to the long-term impacts on water and environment resources.

Download flyer

For more information on Source, please email: [email protected]

Get Source       Download free trial


Source has been developed to address water sharing and savings for entire river and connected groundwater systems. It offers important new features and capabilities dealing with water reform, climate change and environmental water.

It allows users to:

  • share water between environmental and irrigation demands
  • consider what impact climate change will have on water security
  • manage multiple water owners in storage and in transit in the river system
  • link existing models to build on current approaches.

Source provides a consistent modelling environment to support transparent river management decisions. Fundamental to this design is the flexibility which makes it readily customisable and easy to update as new science becomes available. New capabilities can be incorporated via plug-ins developed to suit particular needs.

Extensive trials with eWater partners have proved the capabilities of Source in river basins across the country.

Source Rivers diagram

Click to enlarge diagram

Modes for planning and operations

The Source modelling package can be run in one of two inter-changeable modes: 'Operations' to inform day-to-day operational decisions; and 'Planning' to inform policy decisions relating to the long-term impacts on water and environment resources. This means that managers dealing with daily operations, water accounting and long term planning will be able to efficiently and accurately compare analyses using a common platform and river system model.


For assessing the longer term impacts of water resource policy on river behaviour and all users

River imageThe Planning mode is designed to explore how changes in policy and management will effect the behaviour of the river system in the longer term. It can be used by river managers to assess the impact of actual or potential changes to the behaviour of the river system and the probable affect on system storages, flows and water shares. By exploring the options, river planners can decide on which management actions will optimise river performance to meet planning objectives.

Source (Planning) is designed to:

  • determine which management rules will best meet planning objectives
  • explore the impact of changes in management, land-use and climate on river behaviour and water availability
  • model the supply, demand and use of water at a range of time scales
  • simulate complex management rules, such as continuous sharing
  • accommodate the needs and conditions of different river catchments across Australia
  • track and account for water shares and ownership
  • assess current and future water availability across entire river systems
  • interact efficiently with river operations.


For day-to-day operational decisions around the release and storage of water in regulated systems

Dam imageThe Operational mode of Source is designed to inform day-to-day decisions around managing storage releases and delivery of water to meet demands in regulated river systems.
It enables the user to build an operational model of the river. The operator can then assess the impact of different operational scenarios on the way water moves through a river system in response to storage releases, tributary inflows, losses, demands and constraints.

Source (Operations) is designed to:

  • inform decisions on how the system should be operated to deliver water in the short and medium term to consumptive and environmental users
  • inform decisions on water transfers between catchments, rivers and reservoirs as specified in operation and management plans
  • inform changes in water delivery requirements as a consequence of external drivers, such as water trading
  • decide on the optimum storage and weir operations to meet target watering regimes for consumptive and environmental demands
  • interact efficiently with long-term river system planning.


Project Team and Partners


Building the Source software engine has involved a major research and development effort. This has included the development of new lumped groundwater models and enhanced algorithms for modelling the supply of water down multiple supply paths. In addition, the software engine has enabled researchers to answer catchment management and river modelling questions. Many of the algorithms for addressing Australia’s water management rules (such as accounting and ownership) are unique to this software.

Using Source to manage rivers:

  • develop, implement and monitor robust and defensible water sharing plans
  • make daily operation decisions and develop seasonal operating plans
  • predict the combined impacts of climate, land use, farm dams, irrigation, water savings, and groundwater development
  • model water availability—historical, present and future—across the whole country using models that are consistent at catchment, regional and continental scales
  • assess the impact of land use and water management on water quality
  • use with existing models or develop plug-ins as required
  • share knowledge by joining a community of practice.

Unique capabilities

Source has a unique range of capabilities. Users are able to simultaneously answer catchment management and river modelling questions, including the ability to handle complex policy and management rules at a system-wide scale.

Key features include the ability to:

  • model water sharing and accounting using a selection of resource assessment systems dealing with water sharing plans in place in different catchments and jurisdictions
  • assign, track, manage and reassign an owner’s (such as a state or ‘the environment’) share of water as it moves through the river system
  • support both rules based and optimised solutions to manage the delivery of water from multiple supply storages via multiple paths
  • track the concentration of salinity and other ‘conservative constituents’ through the river system
  • take explicit account of fluxes between the river and the groundwater aquifer along entire river reaches at any time step
  • predict inflows from rainfall and runoff using a collection of available models
  • select from a range of ‘water user’ demand models, including urban, environmental and irrigation demand, to inform storage releases.

Key features

Modelling Components

eWater has undertaken brand new research around improving the way groundwater fluxes, climate processes and ecological demand are considered in river models.  From this, the following components have been developed and are being trialled in the Source framework:

Groundwater - Surface Water Interactions Tool (GSWIT)

Groundwater exchange in river models is usually lumped with unaccounted losses and determined by calibration. Research has been undertaken to allow a more explicit representation of the groundwater exchange flux within a river model.  As a consequence, a new groundwater exchange model has been incorporated into Source. The groundwater exchange model and supporting guidelines will enable a more consistent, robust and transparent representation of groundwater exchange fluxes within a river model.


Catchment Water Yield Estimation Tool (CWYET)

Components for modelling rainfall-runoff processes within a catchment are being developed for Source. The CWYET estimates daily catchment water yield and runoff to generate data on stream flow that will be considered via an inflow node in Source. CWYET also predicts how catchment water yield is affected by influences such as climate variation and land use change, including afforestation and the building of farm dams. In doing so, it will consider how changes within the catchment affect the quantity of water reaching the river as runoff.

In Source, CWYET will provide information on:

  •  variability in rainfall (spatial and temporal)
  •  variability in potential evaporation (spatial and temporal)
  •  impact of plantations on evapotranspiration
  •  impact of groundwater processes on runoff, including extractions. 


Environmental Demand Model

Managers need to balance the often competing needs of the environment, irrigators and other water users. To help with this task, an Environmental Demand module is being built into Source. The environmental demand module allows the user to define environmental watering requirements and strategies for delivering the water, such as extending minor flows, augmenting tributary inflows or making a dam ‘translucent’. The environment is like any other water user in having a water account that must be managed and tracked, but it is unique in the type of flow regime required and the strategies for delivering the flow. The environmental demand module will allow accounts of environmental water to be tracked and managed like other accounts, even as the water is ordered and delivered in very specific ways unique to environmental water. 

Case studies

eWater researchers are working with partners as they refine the tools and user interface on the basis of real world simulations. This process enhances local understanding of the capability of eWater tools in the operating environment. Click on the button below to view some of the case studies available.

Case studies