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Water and wastewater infrastructure planning with GIS data

By The Fulcrum Team
August 28, 2023

Access to safe drinking water and clean sanitation has long been considered a basic human right. But over two billion people lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, a staggering figure on the rise. The need for robust, efficient, and sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure is clear, especially in an era of resource scarcity and extreme climate events. Water utilities infrastructure planning ensures public health and protects our environment. 

Geographic Information System (GIS) data has been pivotal in meeting these challenges, but it isn’t a standalone solution. Given the issue’s urgency and complexity, being able to synergize data sources and tools is more important than ever. 

To this end, harnessing GIS capabilities within current in-market data collection platforms complements the power of GIS to help build and manage sustainable water utilities infrastructure.

Join us as we dive deeper into the transformative potential of GIS and its synergy with data collection platforms. As we’ll see, working together, these tools lay the groundwork for the future of data-driven water utility planning.

Mapping the role of GIS in water and wastewater infrastructure

GIS goes beyond simple mapping, serving as a critical tool for decision-makers by visualizing and analyzing complex datasets. In fact, cities around the world have deployed GIS to address various water and wastewater challenges, including:

  • New York City: The Big Apple used GIS to prioritize conservation areas and ensure water quality for its watershed protection program.
  • Cape Town:  Employing GIS to map residential water usage patterns against available resources, Cape Town prevented a severe water crisis. 
  • Singapore: The heavily populated island nation used GIS to map its entire drainage system, leading to more efficient rainwater harvesting and minimizing flood risks. 
  • Los Angeles: Struggling with water shortages, LA used GIS to identify suitable areas for aquifer recharge. Treated wastewater was then diverted to where it could safely seep into the ground, replenishing groundwater resources.

Leveraging GIS for more and better data 

A wealth of actionable GIS data is available to help guide water and wastewater infrastructure planning towards innovation and sustainability. Some common but powerful capabilities to help guide planners and decision-makers include: 

  • Precise Mapping: Through GIS, planners can generate highly accurate maps, ensuring that every water source, pipe, valve, and wastewater outlet is meticulously accounted for and placed correctly.
  • Drones: Integrated with GIS software, drones allow real-time aerial inspections of water sources, pipelines, and wastewater treatment plants. Quick access to high-quality visual data ensures rapid responses to any emerging infrastructure issues.
  • Artificial Intelligence: When combined with GIS, AI can sift through vast amounts of data. This is useful for identifying patterns, predicting infrastructure failures, and suggesting optimal resource distribution based on demand or use.
  • Data Analysis and Predictive Modeling:  Analyzing collected data points helps predict potential issues. For example, a predictive model for pipe failure would analyze collected GIS data on a pipeline’s installation date, material, diameter, last maintenance date, failure history, and environmental factors to predict which segments of the pipeline are most likely to fail soon.
  • Mobile GIS: With mobile technology, field teams can access and update GIS data on the ground. This ensures real-time data collection, critical during emergencies or when quick decisions are needed.
  • Asset Management: GIS can track the age, condition, and maintenance history of every piece of infrastructure, helping prioritize repairs and replacements.

And this is just the beginning of what GIS can do. Advanced capabilities like remote sensing and 3D modeling elevate data volume and quality. With hyper-accurate, real-time data, field workers and responsible authorities alike can more reliably monitor water bodies and more efficiently plan and manage water and wastewater infrastructure.

Integrating GIS into water and wastewater infrastructure planning

Integrating GIS with leading data collection platforms like Fulcrum offers significant advantages for water utilities infrastructure planning. 

As urban centers grow, leveraging the following benefits will be paramount for achieving sustainable development:  

  • Effective Resource Management:  When leveraged in data collection software, GIS can ensure cities don’t overtax water sources and treat wastewater efficiently. By visualizing and analyzing data, authorities can make informed decisions on distribution and treatment protocols.
  • Risk Reduction: Leveraged within Fulcrum, GIS data can reduce risk across a range of potentially costly and dangerous scenarios. This includes predicting pipe failures, identifying potential contamination sources in watersheds, tracking the spread of contaminants, and ensuring timely intervention. Risk reduction averts possible waterborne diseases or environmental disasters.
  • Meeting Population Demands: As urban centers grow, so do water and wastewater need. GIS helps predict future water demand so that supply keeps pace and locates optimal sites for new treatment facilities or water sources.
  • Cost Efficiency: Instead of costly blanket upgrades, precise mapping and predictive analytics focus repair efforts on areas that need attention. This reduces maintenance and upgrade costs, saving municipalities significant amounts.
  • Emergency Preparedness: During natural disasters like floods, GIS can predict areas most at risk, allowing for efficient evacuation planning and resource distribution. After the disaster, GIS helps assess damage to the water infrastructure and prioritize repairs accordingly.
  • Community Engagement: Municipalities employing GIS can foster public engagement by creating interactive platforms that empower communities to report issues. Over time, this widens the amount of data collected and overall civic responsibility for water issues.

Ultimately, by helping monitor the health of aquatic ecosystems in real time, GIS technology serves as the first line of defense to prevent environmental degradation. 

Fulcrum: where water security meets sustainable futures

In an era of extreme weather, challenges surrounding water utilities infrastructure will continue to increase. However, GIS offers a future where we manage our most essential resource with foresight and precision.

The transformative potential of GIS is further amplified when integrated with and leveraged in data collection platforms like Fulcrum. Then GIS becomes a catalyst to creating innovative and sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure. Bringing together GIS and data collection software like Fulcrum merges water security with environmental stewardship, creating a practical path to a more sustainable future.

Looking to learn more about how GIS and a powerful data collection platform can revolutionize your water and wastewater infrastructure planning? Reach out to one of our experts today!