AWSM (Automated Water Supply Model)

AWSM was designed to streamline the work flow used by the ARS to forecast the water supply of multiple water basins. AWSM standardizes the steps needed to distribute weather station data with SMRF, run an energy and mass balance with iSnobal, and process the results, while maintaining the flexibility of each program.

water supplywater basinsenergymassbalance



Initial contribute: 2020-01-05


USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
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Quoted from: Havens, Scott, Danny Marks, Micah Sandusky, Andrew Hedrick, Micah Johnson, Mark Robertson, and Ernesto Trujillo. "Automated Water Supply Model (AWSM): Streamlining and standardizing application of a physically based snow model for water resources and reproducible science." Computers & Geosciences 144 (2020): 104571. 

      AWSM was developed to streamline and standardize the workflow when running the physically based snow model, iSnobal (Marks et al., 1999). Having a streamlined and standardized modeling workflow allows for running model's multiple times with different configurations, in the context of operational water supply forecasting, or running in an ensemble approach. AWSM standardizes the following components of running iSnobal:


Loading and transforming input meteorological data into the required format


Developing the spatial inputs from the meteorological data for the model domain


Running iSnobal


Analyzing the output


      Historically, running iSnobal required significant modeler input for preparing the input data, distributing the point measurements of meteorological measurements to the domain, running the model, and lastly processing the results. When any errors occurred due to the ad-hoc nature of input data development, there was a significant workload created, including debugging and rerunning each step of the modeling process. The model results were typically not reproducible due to the iterative nature of data development, preparation, and debugging, and the challenges for proper documentation that such a process brings. AWSM aims to solve this problem by removing the modeler interaction between components, lessening the potential for errors and backing up all the inputs (data, configuration and software versions) to allow another user to fully reproduce model results. The default configurations within AWSM are based on previous scientific publications (i.e. Havens et al., 2019aHedrick et al., 2018a2020) but a modeler can still change the AWSM configuration by making decisions for the specific application.

      AWSM not only standardizes the workflow, but also performs the data assimilation of measured snow depths if applicable. One of the main applications of AWSM is the real time simulation of the snowpack in the Southern Sierra Nevada in California, USA, where USDA ARS is modeling 5 large watersheds in partnership with the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO, Painter et al., 2016) program. ASO provides 50-m snow depth products multiple times during the snow ablation season, which are assimilated into AWSM using the methods from Hedrick et al. (2018a). The snow depths from ASO are converted into a NetCDF format and AWSM assimilates the snow depths when the date and time of the flight match the date and time of the model step. With AWSM, the updates are now performed automatically without the user having to start or stop the model (Hedrick et al., 2020).

      AWSM is written in the Python programming language and the source code is freely available at The development of AWSM follows standard software engineering protocols and strictly adheres to semantic versioning. This paper describes all the features of AWSM v0.9.26 (Havens et al., 2019d). AWSM is packaged into a Docker (Merkel, 2014) image, explained below, that contains the component versions laid out in this paper. In addition, all components can be installed in a local development environment with custom versions of the core components.



AWSM team (2020). AWSM (Automated Water Supply Model), Model Item, OpenGMS,


Initial contribute : 2020-01-05



USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Is authorship not correct? Feed back

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