Open Source Software for Preprocessing GIS Data for Hydrological Models


For many studies, models are used or developed. During modelling courses, not much attention is paid to the preprocessing of input data and parameters needed for the models. A lot of open source software is available for this purpose. Besides desktop tools with graphical user interfaces, scripting is very useful for processing large datasets and timeseries. With the skills learned in this course, you will be able to more efficiently process your data and setup and improve your models

From Whom?

The course is designed for professionals (engineers and scientists) active in the water/environmental sector, especially those involved in planning and management of water systems as well as numerical modelling. Pre-requisites are a basic knowledge of computing and water related topics.


After this course you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic concepts of GIS
    • Raster, vector, projections, geospatial analysis
  • Use a GIS for:
    • Thematic mapping
    • Basic data processing and editing
    • Basic geoprocessing and analysis
    • DEM processing and catchment delineation
    • Find open source software and open data


The free and open source software (FOSS) used in this course are:

QGIS is a desktop GIS similar to the commercial ArcGIS software. GDAL is the Geodata Abstraction Layer, a set of open source tools that can be used to convert between GIS formats and to reproject data in a standardized way. GDAL commands can also be used in scripts. During the course basic scripting skills will be acquired: shell scripts and the Python programming language.


The following books are suggested to support the course:


Course materials are prepared by Dr. Johannes van der Kwast, lecturer in Ecohydrological Modelling, Water Science and Engineering Department, UNESCO-IHE.


The course materials have been developed for UNESCO-IHE MSc participants and for tailor made trainings for water companies in Uganda. These trainings were financed by the Vitens Evides International (VEI) Fund. Special thanks to Jan Hoogendoorn and Jonne Kleijer, GIS experts from VEI, who contributed to these exercises.


Some illustrations were taken from A gentle Introduction to GIS and from the PCRaster documentation. 
I tried to reference the sources and respect the licenses of the used sources. Please contact me if I missed any.

Short Courses

This course material is provided as Open Courseware without support and interaction with lecturers. Only exercises are provided. For full lectures and support from lecturers, please register online for one of the related short courses:

GIS, SDI and modelling courses can also be provided as tailor made trainings for your organisation. Please contact me for more information.




Thanks for choosing this course. We hope it was useful for you. Looking forward to see you at one of our short courses at UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands!