Hydrology Software

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I have always gotten away with complex spreadsheets to do all of my hydrologic analysis. I typically work in southern California and typically work with the MOD Rat, modified rational method and rational method to do my hydrology studies. I usually do smaller land development projects where I need to size pipes, outlets, etc. I have decided that it may be time to graduate to some real software, but I can’t make heads or tails of all the free, costs, and costs a lot software.

Does anyone have a preference on stormwater software and why?


I work for a municipality and when things slowed down a bit last year I began the learning curve on a few of the free packages since I had a couple of big drainage basins that needed to be analyzed.

What I found is that SWMM is a really nice program. However, it really doesnt seem built for commerical design work. What I mean is that for most “simple” projects, you can perform the complete analysis serveral times faster using something like Hydrocad. We purchased Hydrocad recently for that very reason. It is very efficient when it comes to designing ponds and applying various storm events to the model.

HEC-HMS is also a pretty good program. Its a little easier to setup than SWMM, but still more difficult (time consuming) than Hydrocad.

Lots of people use Hydraflow Hydrographs - but I have no experience with it. Being another piece of proprietary software, I’m sure it is built to perform basic analysis quick and efficiently.

If I was in the private sector working for myself I would own Hydrocad but would also keep HEC-RAS, and SWMM installed on my computer. I would likely use Hydrocad most often (for subdivisions and redevelopment projects), and HEC-RAS second for flood studies (unsteady breach analysis, etc). I would probably only resort to SWMM if I needed to model some type of odd storm event, or needed to perform some water quality analysis. Of course SWMM can do some hydraulics computations too… so that’s another consideration.