Hydrologic Engineering Center - Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS)

Purpose: Simulate runoff in a dendritic watershed system.
Developer: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center (USACE-HEC)
Key Features: GIS-capable using a supplemental tool; multiple methods to input and model individual processes
Latest Release: Version 4.0, December 2013
OS Platform: Linux, Solaris, Windows
Cost: Free
Related Software: VIC, LISFLOOD, NWSRFS, MIKE 11, MIKE SHE, SWAT, SOBEK, eWater Source
Website: HEC-HMS home page


The HEC-HMS model simulates rainfall-runoff processes in a dendritic (single outlet) watershed. The model simulates the individual fluxes of the hydrologic cycle, such as snow-melt, infiltration, evapotranspiration, base flow, and channel routing. The model is applicable to a number of analyses, such as flood studies, reservoir spillway design, streamflow forecasting, urban drainage, future urbanization impacts, water quality, erosion and sediment transport.

Key features of the model include multiple methods to model physical processes of runoff where the user selects an appropriate method based on data availability and requirements; calibration using an optimization algorithm; uncertainty analysis; and GIS capabilities. A companion model, HEC-GeoHMS, allows for GIS analysis with the model.

Advantages and Limitations

Advantages Limitations
  • HEC GeoHMS can process geospatial data in ArcGIS.
  • Calibration is performed using an optimization algorithm
  • Compatible with other HEC-programs due to common data storage system
  • Allows for discharge output values as well as all internal state variables at user defined grid locations
  • Widely used across the world
  • Detailed technical report and users' manual
  • Cannot model branching or looping stream networks
  • Cannot model backwater in the stream network
  • The supplemental tool HEC-GeoHMS requires ArcGIS with the Spatial Analyst Extension
  • No support provided for users other than U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Model code is not publicly available

Illustrative Screens

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