MS Word sucks for illustrations…flow charts, organizational charts, whatever, it sucks big time. I’m sure there are other options but some casual internet searches seem to suggest that many of the most recommended applications cost money. LaTeX is free and has the additional advantage of being a programming platform that I’m already familiar with.

If you’re a LaTeX user but haven’t yet harnessed the power of the ‘tikz’ package, this little post might help get you started.

I use the ‘tikz’ package in LaTeX to do most of my diagramming, illustrating, flow-charting, etc. I like this little introduction but lots of cool examples with reproduceable code can be pulled off of Stack Overflow too.

Before we go much further, the Vitals:

I’m currently using the MikTeX editor in TeXworks v. 0.4.5 on my MacBook Air. Since my preference are set to automatically install required packages, a sample of the preamble I used to create this short collection of examples is:

\documentclass[]{article}   % list options between brackets


If you need to install ‘tikz’ manually maybe check out this thread.

As a natural resources economist working for a fishery management agency on the West Coast, I work pretty extensively on issues related to anadromous fish (salmon and steelhead). Freshwater management figures pretty prominently into this work as regulation of river system through construction of dams and freshwater agricultural diversions has been a major contributor to loss of anadromous fish habitat over the last several decades. In the course of conducting economic analysis of water management policy, salmonid habitat restoration, agricultural/energy section water use, ect., I often find it useful to provide some basic pictorial representations of basic regulated freshwater systems.

A really basic tikz application can be illustrated with some LaTeX code that I used to produce a (highly simplified) illustration of a regulated freshwater system with storage and agricultural (irrigation) demands. The diagram has 4 nodes which we can designate as different shapes with different fill colors and a few paths connecting the various nodes.


\tikzstyle{decision} = [diamond, draw, fill=blue!50]
\tikzstyle{line} = [draw, -stealth, thick]
\tikzstyle{elli}=[draw, ellipse, fill=red!50,
       minimum height=8mm, text width=5em, text centered]
\tikzstyle{block} = [draw, rectangle, fill=blue!50, 
   text width=8em, text centered, minimum height=15mm, 
   node distance=10em]
\node [block] (start) {Reservoir};
\node [elli, above of=start, yshift=5em] (user) {Headwaters};
\node [block, right of=start, 
   yshift = -2em] (process2) {$y=f(w_a)$};
\node[decision, below of=start, yshift=-10em](decision1){};
\path [line] (user) -- (start);
\path [line] (start) -- node[xshift=0.75em]{$w_h$} (decision1);
\path [line] (start) -- node[yshift=0.75em]{$w_a$}(process2);


\caption{\emph{Base Model} schematic}

The resulting diagram, along with a few other natural resource examples, can be viewed as Figure 1 here.