OpenCDSS / Introduction

This documentation is for the OpenCDSS project, which is moving software in Colorado's Decision Support Systems (CDSS) to open source projects. The OpenCDSS effort seeks to change the paradigm of how CDSS software is developed, maintained and supported, in order to encourage a larger software developer and user community to engage in transparent and sustainable software projects.

This documentation page includes the following sections:

How to Use this Documentation

This website provides overview information about the OpenCDSS project. Separate pages are provided discussing important overarching concepts such as software licenses. Each major software component is also described in a separate page.

Use the left navigation menu to access pages in this documentation. Use the right navigation menu to access sections within a page.

Colorado's Decision Support Systems

Colorado's Decision Support Systems (CDSS, has been developed to answer important questions about Colorado's water resources. CDSS efforts are led by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR).

CDSS Website

CDSS has been under development since 1994, with progress occurring via a series of basin decision support systems (DSS), starting with the Colorado River DSS (CRDSS). Other focused DSS were also developed, such as the CWCB's Instream Flow DSS. Each DSS resulted in enhancements to the core CDSS tools, which are envisioned as a general platform of data and tools to help with water supply planning.

In late 2016, the Open Water Foundation began the effort to move StateMod and other CDSS software to open source licensing and establish open source software projects, referred to as "OpenCDSS". The OpenCDSS project is resulting in a significant evolution in how CDSS software development occurs, such as implementing version control with Git/GitHub and modernizing the development environment and documentation.

Project Leadership

OpenCDSS leadership is comprised of consultant and State of Colorado agency staff. Each software project also has a lead, as indicated on the individual product pages. Leadership roles are expected to change as the OpenCDSS effort matures and more people become involved.

The OpenCDSS effort is being led by the Open Water Foundation (see below), with Steve Malers being the lead. Wilson Water Group is a key subcontractor as the CDSS modeling lead.

The CWCB lead has evolved as staff have changed. The current contact is Carolyn Kemp. More information will be posted here about the current lead.

The DWR lead is Mary Halstead.

OpenCDSS leadership have regular "stand up" meetings/calls to coordinate the project. OpenCDSS efforts are coordinated with other projects such as ArkDSS implementation for the Arkansas Basin and Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) project. A general goal is to move CDSS software forward within OpenCDSS and other projects in order to support all State projects and external users of CDSS products.

Open Water Foundation

The Open Water Foundation (OWF, is a 501(c)3 social enterprise nonprofit that focuses on developing and supporting open source software to make better decisions about water resources. OWF is providing technical resources and management to transition StateMod and other CDSS software to sustainable open source software projects. OWF staff, in particular Steve Malers, have been involved in CDSS development for many years.

OpenCDSS Background

The OpenCDSS project grew out of a recognition that the traditional approach to developing and maintaining CDSS software tools was not sustainable. Motivation for change was provided by the economic recession in late 2000s and loss of technical staff at State agencies and consulting companies. Key concerns included:

  1. How will knowledge about CDSS tools be retained?
  2. How will a new (and renewing) generation of CDSS users and developers be established?
  3. How can software be maintained using current professional standards?
  4. How can the cost and human effort of software maintenance be distributed?

Consequently, the concept of "open source CDSS" was identified as an option, with goals similar to many other open source software projects. Although the State of Colorado does create and maintain software, software development is not its primary function. Consequently, a project was put out to bid, which the Open Water Foundation won. The OpenCDSS project began in October of 2016.

OpenCDSS Status

The OpenCDSS project has been focusing on fundamental technical and educational issues in order to implement high-quality open source projects. Of particular importance is firming up the sustainability of key modeling tools including StateCU and StateMod.

Significant progress has been made in many areas, including the following (see individual software pages for more information):

  • Determining software licenses see License - as of March 2018, recommendations are under review
  • Placing software under version control see Version Control - initial efforts complete and being used in development
  • Implementing tools for documentation see Documentation - being implemented throughout OpenCDSS
  • Implementing tools for testing see Testing - implemented at various levels for different tools
  • Implementing new development environments see Development Environment - phasing in for each tool

A major milestone is pending for all software, which is to finalize the software license selection and make GitHub repositories public. This will enable anyone to view and contribute to software via established protocols. Action is expected in April, 2018.

There is also a need to begin integrating OpenCDSS efforts with the core CDSS efforts, such as the State's CDSS website. This will involve activities such as the following:

  1. Link CDSS website to software project GitHub repositories and documentation such as this documentation.
  2. Establish a workflow whereby software product releases are made available on the CDSS website.
  3. Establishing backlog of software work tasks, such as via the GitHub issues page.
  4. Prioritizing OpenCDSS/CDSS software enhancements across projects using various funding sources, contract vehicles, and human resources.

How to Get Involved

The technical nature of OpenCDSS has required a period of time to determine approach and overcome technical issues. A significant amount of this effort has been completed, resulting in protocols for version control, development environment, version control, etc., as discussed in other sections of this documentation.

OpenCDSS Leadership

The OpenCDSS leadership (see Project Leadership) is lean by design, with the initial focus on ensuring that core CDSS software products are effectively moved to open source projects. State personnel have also been evaluating how to allocate internal resources to each software tool. As software projects become public there will be opportunities to further evaluate how best to allocate human resources aligned with each software tool. OpenCDSS leadership is only a part of other leadership efforts in State program areas.

Software Development Team

The OpenCDSS project is attempting to implement open source software projects for each major CDSS software component. These tools are complicated and use various technologies. Some OpenCDSS budget is being used to train key personnel how to work in the new development environments. However, the reality is that OpenCDSS budget cannot train anyone that is interested in contributing to software. Like many other open source projects, the burden of learning software development tools will fall on individuals or other projects.

Efforts have been made to help increase OpenCDSS knowledge, such as developing the CDSS / Learn Git training materials, and developer manuals for each software tool. Enhancement of documentation, training opportunities, and other educational efforts will continue in the future.

Software repositories in many cases are still private because final details on licensing are being determined. However, people with legitimate interests in contributing can request access to the repositories (contact Steve Malers).

CDSS User Group

OpenCDSS leaders are also interested in forming a "CDSS User Group", which will meet periodically to discuss advances in CDSS tools, provide opportunities to give feedback, provide training, etc. The logistics of this effort are being coordinated with State of Colorado staff. This group will lean on CDSS practitioners to present information and provide feedback. More information will be provided in the future.


The license for this documentation and CDSS software is being determined in the CDSS open source project. More information will be provided soon. See the License section of this documentation.

Source Repository on GitHub

The source files for this documentation are maintained in the public GitHub repository: cdss-website-opencdss. Website files currently are copied to the Open Water Foundation OpenCDSS website, and will be copied to more explict OpenCDSS internet address once details are worked out.

Release Notes

See the GitHib repository for this documentation for release notes for this documentation. Release notes for each software application are provided with the software.