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SMS - Surface-water Modeling System

Published Aug. 19, 2016
Access a full range of coastal and riverine solutions with SMS - the leading application for surface-water modeling.

Access a full range of coastal and riverine solutions with SMS - the leading application for surface-water modeling.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed the Surface-water Modeling System (SMS); the most sophisticated riverine, wetland, coastal, and estuarine modeling environment available today. The SMS is a comprehensive package, which provides tools for every phase of a hydraulic simulation including site characterization, model development, post-processing, calibration, and visualization. SMS provides an integrated graphical environment for performing surface flow, contaminant fate/transport, and project design evaluations.

Throughout its history of managing and maintaining navigation, coastal and inland waterways, and wetland areas, the US Army Corps of Engineers has encountered environmental problems due to the unpredictable and complex conditions created by nature. Impact of flooding in terms of lives and property damage continues to escalate as modern developments encroach on natural floodways and coastal zones and thereby changing general circulation patterns and water quality of the receiving water bodies.

Meeting the challenge to facilitate understanding and therefore managing these waterways is SMS, a comprehensive graphical modeling environment incorporating a suite of numerical modeling programs that allow users to visualize these waterways, evaluate design proposals and alternatives, and predict their effectiveness.

SMS has evolved from a simplistic mesh generator to an all-inclusive tool for start-to- finish numerical modeling of surface water related issues. The graphical interface houses independent numerical models used to conduct everything from hydrodynamic circulation patterns, to sediment transport or contaminant transport. The user may conceptualize the boundary conditions for the model domain and choose to analysis, the results from one of a dozen numerical models supported within SMS.

For example, the Lower Columbia River Estuary is an ongoing AdH 2D coupled flow and salinity transport application which will address navigation and ecological concerns of wetland inundation resulting from sea level rise and tidal influences. Water depth contours are displayed.

A second example application is a shallow-draft harbor in Tedious Creek Maryland. The focus of this study was to determine if the existing structures needed to be lengthened to provide better wave protection for commercial and recreational vessels at the county boat dock. CGWAVE model results of wave heights are displayed.

A third example is from the ADCIRC model showing the formation of the ebb jet (velocity magnitude) at Shinnecock Inlet, New York.

Expected Cost To Implement

SMS is available at no cost to employees of the US Army Corps of Engineers, its research labs, and on-site contractors.


SMS integrates and simplifies the process of hydraulic and coastal modeling including circulation, wave transformation, and sediment transport by bringing together all of the tools needed to complete a successful study. SMS provides a comprehensive graphical environment for numerical modeling and tools for site characterization, model conceptualization, mesh and grid generation, and graphical visualization. Using SMS can save time and money, as much as 30 percent on overall project design costs.


SMS is available for Microsoft Windows-based operating systems. The current version of SMS provides a complete interface for the numerical models: ADCIRC, ADH, CGWAVE, TABS-MD (RMA2, RMA4, SED2D), TABS-MDS (aka RMA10-WES), BOUSS-2D, CMS-Flow and -Wave, STWAVE, FESWMS, and generic models. The Lagrangian Particle Tracking Model (PTM) was added in 2008.

Distribution / Documentation / Support / Training

  • SMS is distributed via Internet download, which includes the full program, tutorial files, documentation, and supported model executables.
  • USACE users
  • Other users


Contact: Jennifer McAlpin

Contact: Cassandra Ross


Hydrologic Systems Branch, Groundwater Group (CEERD-HFH-G)
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center | Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory
Updated 23 Oct. 2020



The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) solves tough engineering and environmental challenges. ERDC develops innovative solutions in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources, and environmental sciences for the Army, DOD, civilian agencies, and our Nation’s public good. 


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