Web services providing machine-accessible interfaces to environmental data are now commonplace. Building on this, a current trend is to expand these web services to provide on-demand access to model and analysis services. This progression suggests the future possibility of cloud-based decision support systems (DSSs) integrating distributed data and analysis services delivered through a host of providers. Such distributed environmental DSSs have many potential benefits, but would require highly scalable and responsive web services. The objective of this study is to assess the current feasibility of building distributed environmental DSSs from existing web services in the United States. Results show that, of the many available web services providing information about soils, river network topology, watersheds, streamflow, etc., response times are often only a few seconds for a small project area, but can grow exponentially as the project area increases. On-demand watershed delineation remains a slow-to-respond service relative to the other services tested. Also, the results suggest the need to better co-locate servers near client applications to speed up response times. Collectively, these results provide specific areas where future research is needed in order to achieve the vision of on-demand distributed environmental DSSs.

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