Online Tools Overview

The IWR develops interactive tools that address real world problems such as nonpoint source pollution and water availability. Our suite of decision support, watershed analysis and networking tools transform complex modeling, mapping and assessment into accessible and freely available online applications.

Tool development at the IWR stems from collaborative partnerships and innovative research. We design our tools in close coordination with stakeholders and combine leading edge software development, modeling expertise and comprehensive training to provide holistic, practical and effective systems.

IWR has provided critical decision support tools that are being used to inform on-the-ground protection and restoration actions that are improving Michigan’s water resources for current and future generations.
-Michelle Selzer, Lake Erie Coordinator, Michigan Office of the Great Lakes

Below you will find a select list of online tools developed at the IWR.

Networking Tools

Big change is possible when people work together, generate new ideas, and forge partnerships. That’s the goal of the Great Lakes Clean Communities Network (GLCCN), an effort supported by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, where leaders connect in new and powerful ways, and determination drives innovative ideas to address environmental problems locally and throughout the Great Lakes.

It’s a Network for:

  • Discovering solutions to protect and restore the Great Lakes
  • Promoting collaboration, innovation and leadership
  • Providing resources and tools to measure and track environmental progress
  • Connecting and empowering communities to take action

Have a rain garden, rain barrel, or other low impact development practice? What if you could map it and determine how much stormwater you’re managing by having that practice in place? Networked Neighborhoods for Eco-Conservation Online (NECO) does just that. Funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, this online tool helps individuals in the Great Lakes region map and share green practices they have installed or are interested in implementing. NECO uses both social networking and mapping technology to link people together with the common goals of improving the Great Lakes Basin, their watershed, town or their own back yard. The website summarizes the total water managed by these practices and reports pollutant reductions using Purdue University’s Long Term Hydrologic Impact Analysis model (L-THIA) for nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and fecal coliform. Join the other 260 users who have submitted over 1,000 practices and add your practices to the map.


It often takes time to measure and document the benefits of best management practices on the landscape. Social indicators, which examine changes in awareness, attitudes and behaviors, are an alternative approach to demonstrating progress toward water quality goals. They provide consistent measures of social change within a watershed and can be used by managers at local, state, and federal levels to estimate the impacts of their efforts and resources. The Social Indicator Data Management and Analysis (SIDMA) system organizes, analyzes, and visualizes social indicators, related to nonpoint source (NPS) management efforts through statistical and spatial relationships. This online project management aid, developed as part of the Social Indicators Planning and Evaluation System (SIPES) project, allows users to create easily create surveys with vetted questions, and analyze and compare results. To date, 244 SIDMA projects in 37 states are stored within the system.


Decision Support Tools

The Great Lakes Watershed Management System (GLWMS) is an online tool that allows users to evaluate non-point source (NPS) pollution estimates at watershed and field scales. Users are able to conduct on-the-fly field scale scenario evaluations of land cover changes or best management practices for run-off volumes, sediment loading and other pollutant loads. The system links the High Impact Targeting (HIT) model from the MSU IWR with the Long Term Hydrologic Impact Assessment (L-THIA) model from Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. The GLWMS represents the integration of several water quality modeling projects across the region, led by The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District, IWR, and ABE-Purdue.


Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is defined as a combination of procedures, methods, and tools by which a policy, program, or project may be judged as to its potential effects on the health of a population, and the distribution of those effects within the population. HIA identifies appropriate actions to manage those effects. The HIA Toolkit helps support the HIA process by providing free access to environmental and health data to planners, decision makers, and the public; mapping and visualization applications; and assessment of impacts that will showcase how to integrate an assessment of public health impacts within a greater, dynamic movement towards sustainability in our region. The built-in assessment checklist addresses topics such as water quality, social capital and physical activity and injury prevention, among others. The toolkit was developed in partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design, and Construction.


The High Impact Targeting or HIT system, is an online decision support tool for prioritizing agricultural areas contributing sediment to the Great Lakes and their tributaries. HIT produces field-scale maps identifying areas at risk for erosion and sediment loading and tonnage estimates for erosion and sediment loading at watershed scales. This online tools allows users to interact with these data spatially, and evaluate the potential impacts of best management practices (BMPs) on selected watersheds. HIT data, along with detailed metadata, is downloadable for users in desktop GIS format for more in-depth spatial analysis. HIT combines an erosion model (RUSLE – Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation) and a sediment delivery model (SEDMOD – Spatially Explicit Delivery Model) to calculate annual erosion and sediment loading to streams. Development for HIT was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. HIT is currently undergoing maintenance is not available online. If you have any questions, please contact us at

The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), was developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and is internationally employed. It considers rainfall runoff, soil erodibility, field slope length and steepness, land cover practices, and conservation support practices to estimate average soil loss in tons/acre/year. The RUSLE Tool, an interactive web-based tool that integrates the RUSLE equation into a geographical information system (GIS), allows the user to apply “what if” scenarios to these activities to predict an estimated average soil loss in tons per acre per year based upon crop rotation and tillage practices and best management practices selected. As a result, agricultural producers, land developers and contractors will better understand the impact their decisions have on the land, and can employ practices that can minimize soil erosion from their sites.


The Michigan Sensitive Areas Identification System (SAIS) is an online mapping and reporting tool that identifies and maps sensitive areas on farm fields. This online system can be used by producers to assist in identifying ecologically sensitive areas that may be prone to soil erosion by wind or water, leaching of nutrients, or other risk factors. After identifying potential resource concerns, users have the option to complete a brief questionnaire and generate a printable report with a summary of results and information to follow-up with NRCS. The goal of the system is to improve water quality by connecting producers with NRCS and conservation organizations to address sensitive areas through conservation treatments and available assistance programs.


Watershed Analysis Tools

eWatershed (formerly ELUCID), developed by the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research (IWR), is a web-based geographic information system (GIS). This interactive mapping environment was piloted in the Flint River Watershed and features a wealth of environmental data. eWatershed can be accessed by any device connected to the internet (e.g. a desktop computer or tablet). It is based upon technology from Esri (a major GIS-software company), so if you are familiar with their products, using eWatershed will be an easy transition for you.

One of eWatershed’s greatest assets is its ability to engage and inform different user groups and address multiple issues in one system. This is accomplished through its unique design. Each customized eWatershed system is organized into varying themes such as water quality and land protection. Users investigate these themes through a mapping interface which automatically loads relevant theme data. Furthermore, eWatershed can be linked to existing systems to enhance its analytical capabilities.


Tool Flyers

Great Lakes Watershed Management System

Sensitive Areas Identification System

High Impact Targeting

Great Lakes Clean Communities Network

Social Indicators Data Management and Analysis

Health Impact Assessment Toolkit