I've been asked by my company to generate a conceptual site model for a project and I have no clue where to start. The purpose is to show groundwater flow through a few layers of rock either in 2D or 3D. I don't need a program like MODFLOW, just something to visualize it.

My search always ends at a website that describes how to make a CSM or I read articles with great pictures/figures with no explanation on who/what created it. What I want is to download (doesn't have to be free) software that will help my model look professional.

Does anyone have a suggestion for me?

  • 2
    Because this looks like a marginal topic on this site, could you be more explicit in explaining the connection to GIS?
    – whuber
    Apr 15, 2014 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


Because you are creating a conceptual model not based on real-world data, I would recommend SketchUp. The free version has all the modeling capabilities you will need and the software is very intuitive. Once you go through a few online video tutorials, you will be able to start creating 3D models fairly quickly.

A while back I posted some SketchUp examples here: https://gis.stackexchange.com/a/22365/685

  • I was looking at that but I don't see anything that resembles what I want to do. Everything looks like buildings above ground. Can I create a cross section of the ground?
    – Garrett
    Apr 15, 2014 at 17:53
  • I added a link to an older post to my answer. There are some simple site plan models I created in SketchUp. You will have to build your model by creating everything from scratch but yes you can use the section plane to slice trough your model any which way you want. Apr 15, 2014 at 18:05
  • Wow those are pretty impressive! I see they were done with ArcGIS first and then transferred to SketchUp. Is ArcGIS free? Is it data difficult to transfer? Also how long would it take to create a model like one of the last three? If you were to start from scratch. Thank you
    – Garrett
    Apr 15, 2014 at 18:37
  • Only some items were created in ArcGIS. It would actually be a lot easier to create it from scratch. It is no longer possible to exchange data easily; SketchUp plugin for ArcGIS only worked up to ArcGIS version 9.3 and Google SketchUP version 6 although it was still possible with version 7. Now only Collada is supported and there is no way to transfer referenced surface, polygons, lines and points without a great manual effort. As for time involvement; this depends on your skill level. With training you can whip out something like that in 2 hours without training it can take 2 weeks. Apr 15, 2014 at 18:44
  • Just wanted to add; Prior to ArcGIS version 10 it was easier to export referenced data to SketchUp. Now it's the other way around - ArcGIS provides you with the ability to enhance and replace multipatches (ESRI 3D objects) with sketchup models in ArcScene. Apr 15, 2014 at 18:52

There is some specialist conceptual site modelling software which we - Land Quality Management Limited - created with Keynetix

see http://www.lqm.co.uk/keycsm/

It costs less than £1000 and you ask Keynetix for a trial via http://www.keynetix.com/keycsm/keycsm-trial/

  • The second link is dead.
    – Aaron
    May 10, 2017 at 11:40

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