OR/13/043 Enhancements undertaken to OneRTM during the project

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Wang, L, Kingdon, A, Shelley, W A, and Smith, N A . 2013. OneRTM: a pilot study for exploring the business case for the next generation of online real-time numerical modelling and data services. British Geological Survey External Report, OR/13/043.

Starting point[edit]

Figure 1 shows the interface of an early prototype OneRTM version that was funded by BGS beginning in 2011. We engaged with various types of end-users to explore the possibility of different business cases, originally we only focused on the water companies by taking groundwater flow modelling as an example due to the short nature of the project. The NERC Environmental Data project has enabled BGS to enhance the OneRTM. OneRTM has been developed into a pilot product tailored for modelling groundwater in the Thames Basin with improvements to: the interface, the dynamic GIS layers representation and the internet accessibility. The functions of the OneRTM pilot are described in Storyboard.

Figure 1    The initial interface of OneRTM.

Datasets and models used in the project[edit]

The datasets used in this project include:

  • Digital Terrain Model
  • Land Cover Map 2000 (from NERC CEH)
  • River network (from NERC CEH)
  • River flow gauging data (from NERC CEH)
  • Daily distributed rainfall data (from NERC CEH)
  • 1:625k geological map (from NERC BGS)
  • 1:625k hydrogeological map (from NERC BGS)
  • Observed borehole data of groundwater levels (from NERC BGS)
  • ‘MORECS’ potential evapotranspiration data (from EA and Met Office)

NERC models used in this project include:

  • Groundwater flow model of the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs and South-West Chilterns (Jackson et al., 2011[1]) using ZOOMQ3D (developed by NERC BGS) (Jackson and Spink, 2004[2])
  • Groundwater recharge model in the area (developed by NERC BGS)
  • Groundwater flow model of the area developed using GIS-Groundwater for groundwater abstraction scenarios (from NERC BGS) (Wang et al., 2010[3])

All these datasets and models have been successfully integrated and synchronised in OneRTM to form a complete data and model service flow. ‘The area’ described in this report refers to the Marlborough and Berkshire Downs and South-West Chilterns.


The functions of OneRTM are described below using a storyboard based on screenshots taken from the OneRTM pilot. Once the OneRTM page is open in an internet browser, it shows a map of the UK (Figure 2). End users can use a mouse to navigate the interface and explore the map by holding the left mouse button and zoom in or out by rolling the mouse wheel or by a map scale slider on the left top side of the window.

Figure 2    The interface of the OneRTM as configured for a water company (whole UK).

After zooming into an area, the interface is as shown in Figure 3. The transparency of the top most GIS layer can be controlled by a display bar on the top right of the window that also shows that current mouse coordinate information. OneRTM contains functions that, for example, control switching of layers on and off (Figure 4), location bookmarking and search (Figure 5), data search (Figure 6), printing (Figure 7) and distance and area measuring tools (Figure 8).

Figure 3    The interface of the OneRTM for a water company (zoomed into the area of interest.
Figure 4    The interface of the OneRTM with data layer display function.

As well as these functions, the OneRTM has unique functions that help solve the problems that could be encountered easily using the traditional numerical modelling as described in Existing techniques for maintaining and distributing environmental models to end-users.

Figure 5    The interface of OneRTM highlighting location bookmarking and search function.
Figure 6    The interface of OneRTM highlighting search functions.
Figure 7     The interface of OneRTM highlighting the print function.
Figure 8    The interface of OneRTM highlighting the measuring functions.

Potential uses of OneRTM[edit]

The following describes how OneRTM could be used.

Quicker and easy model maintenance[edit]

It is both costly and time consuming to keep numerical models up to date as this is generally carried out by manual intervention by professional modellers. In this example, OneRTM automatically keeps the groundwater flow models up to current once the latest rainfall and potential evapotranspiration (calculated using weather and land cover data by Met Office) whenever datasets become available. This means that a model runs automatically and is always up to date without further intervention.

Immediate and cheap dissemination of models and modelled results[edit]

Traditionally, it has taken a long time for modellers to prepare a report based on the modelled results, and then send it to end-users along with tables or GIS maps of the modelled results (built for specified historic periods of environmental data) and modelled data. OneRTM immediately delivers the models and datasets through the internet, thus allowing end-users to access up-to-date information. This is potentially very useful in supporting quick decision making. Datasets including modelled results are also automatically archived in the system allowing users to view or query past groundwater levels by selecting year, month and day (Figure 9, Figure 10 and Figure 11).

Figure 9    The interface of OneRTM highlighting with historic data view function (selecting year).
Figure 10    The interface of OneRTM highlighting historic data view functionality (by selecting individual months).
Figure 11    The interface of OneRTM highlighting querying functionality.

Allowing non-modeller to use modelling functions[edit]

Training is generally needed to allow people to use numerical models and interpret the modelled results. This creates a significant barrier for using numerical models by those who make decisions. Modellers’ time has to be sought to help in numerical modelling or in translating the modelled results into the format that is understandable to non-modellers. OneRTM hides the complicated model interface behind the internet browser so that a person without any modelling experience can easily view and interrogate modelled results (such as groundwater levels) which are shown as GIS layers.

As an example OneRTM provides online modelling functions to generate hydrographs and run abstraction scenarios (Figure 12) thus allowing a user, who has no or very limited modelling knowledge, to directly interact with online modelling functions. This in turn reduces the need for model developers to support model users and also the time associated with interpreting model outputs. The ‘generate hydrograph’ function allows users to easily generate a groundwater hydrograph at any location in the model area via an internet browser. After clicking the ‘Generate Hydrograph’ button, a message box appears that prompts for selection of a location to generate a hydrograph (Figure 13) and after a short wait then a groundwater hydrograph is displayed in the browser. This provides information on changes in groundwater levels with time at the selected location and also statistics about this such as the average groundwater level over a time intervals and frequency histograms of past groundwater levels (Figure 14). If the selected location is accidently outside of the modelling area, a warning will also be shown to let users select a valid location.

Figure 12    The interface OneRTM highlighting online interrogation functionality to generate hydrographs and to evaluate abstraction scenarios.
Figure 13    The interface of OneRTM highlighting the hydrograph generation functionality.
Figure 14    A OneRTM hydrograph generated ‘on-the-fly’.

As an example of how users can tests scenarios using OneRTM the ‘Run abstraction scenario’ function was developed to show how decision makers might assess the impact of changing conditions, in this case the effects of a newly proposed abstraction boreholes. A decision maker can specify the number of proposed pumping boreholes and then click the ‘run abstraction scenario’ button in a browser (Figure 12). A prompt appears to select a location for generating the groundwater hydrograph at a potentially impacted location some distance away (Figure 13); followed by prompts to enter the location and abstraction rate for the proposed borehole(s) (Figure 15). After a short wait hydrograph pops up providing the information on average groundwater levels and groundwater level changes with and without proposed pumping borehole scenario (Figure 16).

Figure 15    The screenshot of entering the abstraction rate of proposed pumping borehole for the OneRTM ‘run abstraction scenario’ function.
Figure 16    The screenshot of the abstraction scenario results showing the comparison of Groundwater hydrograph with and without the proposed pumping borehole(s).

Easy model integration[edit]

Although there are other methods for model integration, they are often not easy to implement; for example OpenMI require that all models should be OpenMI wrapped which often needs recoding the models. OneRTM integrates models based on data flow; there are only two requirements to make a model OneRTM compliant:

  1. The model can be run from a DOS command line
  2. The model must be able to run a single time step at a time, so that the model is able to use the modelled results from the end of previous time step as the initial condition for the current time step simulation, and then export modelled results at the end of current time step

The OneRTM integrates three models (described in Datasets and models used in the project) and synchronises them in real-time. This functionality could mean that OneRTM has potential to host and link many different types of environmental models, such as hydrological, water quality and socio-economic models.

Emergency alert function[edit]

OneRTM can send out alert messages by email if preset conditions are met, which provides warnings for decision makers to aid quick reactions to changes. For example the preset condition could be groundwater flooding where the groundwater level is higher than a threshold value, drought if groundwater level is lower than a threshold value, or water pollution if for example, a model showed water nitrate concentrations higher than a threshold value. Equally it could advise on the end of an event, such as the finish of a scenario simulation. Figure 17 is an example of alert function in OneRTM; an email is automatically sent out once the abstraction scenario run finishes.

Figure 17    The screenshot of alert message sent out when the abstraction scenario run finishes.


  1. JACKSON, C R, MEISTER, R, PRUDHOMME, C. 2011. Modelling the effects of climate change and its uncertainty on UK Chalk groundwater resources from an ensemble of global climate model projections. Journal of Hydrology, 399, 12–28.
  2. JACKSON, C R, SPINK, A E F. 2004. User's manual for the groundwater flow model ZOOMQ3D. Internal Report IR/04/140, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, UK.
  3. WANG, L, MANSOUR, M, and HUGHES A. 2010. Developing a GIS based finite difference groundwater flow model GIS Groundwater. Internal Report IR/10/070, British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, UK.