The development of a decision support system (DSS) to inform policy making has been progressing rapidly. This paper presents a generic framework and the development steps of a decision tool prototype of geographic information systems (GIS)-based decision support system of river health diagnosis (RHD-DSS). This system integrates data, calculation models, and human knowledge of river health status assessment, causal factors diagnosis, and restoration decision making to assist decision makers during river restoration and management in Zhejiang Province, China. Our RHD-DSS is composed of four main elements: the graphical user interface (GUI), the database, the model base, and the knowledge base. It has five functional components: the input module, the database management, the diagnostic indicators management, the assessment and diagnosis, and the visual result module. The system design is illustrated with particular emphasis on the development of the database, model schemas, diagnosis and analytical processing techniques, and map management design. Finally, the application of the prototype RHD-DSS is presented and implemented for Xinjiangtang River of Haining County in Zhejiang Province, China. This case study is used to demonstrate the advantages gained by the application of this system. We conclude that there is great potential for using the RHD-DSS to systematically manage river basins in order to effectively mitigate environmental issues. The proposed approach will provide river managers and designers with improved insight into river degradation conditions, thereby strengthening the assessment process and the administration of human activities in river management.
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