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Water quality technology: A GIS-enabled approach to monitoring water quality

October 31, 2023

Not only is clean and safe water vital for public health, but failing to ensure water quality also has wide economic and environmental consequences. Water quality technology has traditionally involved cumbersome or slow sampling and testing methods, often delaying the identification of contaminants. However, Geographic Information System (GIS) has now made real-time water quality monitoring more simple, effective, and accurate than ever.

Join us as we explore how GIS-first data collection platforms can function as advanced water quality technology and help pinpoint contamination sources, optimize treatment processes, and offer timely alerts, ensuring consistent access to safe and available drinking water for all.

The importance of monitoring water quality

Whether private or public sector, responsible bodies monitor water quality for several critical reasons, including:

  • Public Health Concerns. Contaminated water can lead to widespread infection and disease outbreaks. Contaminants like lead, often found in legacy infrastructure, have long-term health implications, particularly for children. Furthermore, the agricultural sector relies on clean water for irrigation, lack of which can introduce toxins into the food chain.
  • Regulatory Compliance. To ensure public health and safety, water utilities are bound to strict standards set by regulatory bodies. Utilities can face significant penalties, including fines and legal action, when water quality fails to meet acceptable levels. Regular and timely monitoring helps them stay compliant and avoid damaging repercussions.
  • Economic Implications. Poor water quality has far-reaching economic consequences. Both tourism and fisheries suffer from polluted water sources, while poorly irrigated crops can lead to higher food prices. Finally, treating outbreaks of waterborne diseases strains healthcare systems, resulting in increased public expenditure and reduced workforce productivity.
  • Community Trust. Residents confident in their water supply trust utilities and governments more. Conversely, distrust can lead to panic, misinformation, and a community feeling underserved or neglected.

GIS technology: an overview

GIS transforms how we can understand and manage our environment, especially where water quality technology meets real-time monitoring. The technology’s core strength is the seamless integration and visualization of multiple data types into a singular system. More than mapping or collecting information, GIS fuses any data element deemed critical to water monitoring – from local topography to shifting weather patterns to urban planning insights – into visual and interactive maps and models.

With real-time data processing and analysis, GIS delivers immediate insights into water quality changes. Stakeholders now have a comprehensive, nuanced understanding of contamination levels, water flow patterns, and potential contamination sources from which to streamline decision-making and devise strategies for future sustainability. And with a high degree of integration and customization, data collection can be tailored to leverage IoT devices and AI, customize queries, or generate specific reports. This flexibility means each user can use GIS to target their own unique and guide proactive intervention.

In essence, GIS can be much more than a data collection or visualization tool. It can be leveraged as enhanced water quality technology offering actionable insights that safeguard our most precious resource.

Pinpointing contamination sources

Accurately and quickly identifying water contamination is the cornerstone of effective water management. Solutions are more likely inefficient or misdirected if the contamination source is unknown. Leading GIS-enabled data collection platforms like Fulcrum revolutionize water quality technology by identifying contamination sources in a few key ways.

  • Spatial Analysis. By visualizing and cross-referencing various data sets, such as industrial sites, agricultural areas, and sewage systems, contamination sources can be quickly identified and tracked on a single map. Deciphering these complex environmental patterns accelerates remediation and helps build preventive measures.
  • Historical Data Insights. GIS-enabled platforms can compare current and past contamination patterns by storing historical data. This helps identify recurring problem areas, malfunctioning infrastructure patterns, or seasonal trends, allowing for proactive interventions.
  • Sensors Integration. IoT-based sensors integrate seamlessly with GIS-first platforms. When sensors detect quality anomalies, they instantly transmit this data to the GIS system. GIS then uses spatial algorithms to determine the most likely contamination pathways.
  • Collaborative Approach. Cloud-based GIS platforms allow multiple stakeholders to access and work from the same data. This collaborative approach promotes a faster, more unified response to identifying and remediating contamination sources that span multiple jurisdictions.

GIS streamlines identifying contamination sources, offering more accurate, real-time water quality management solutions that better safeguard water supplies.

Optimizing treatment processes

GIS technology also helps optimize the precision and efficiency of the vital water treatment processes that ensure clean, safe water. Real-time data gives water treatment facilities immediate feedback on water quality, allowing for on-the-ground adjustments to current contamination levels.

Leveraging historical data, GIS can detect patterns to predict future water quality challenges like seasonal algae blooms or runoff surges. With time to prepare, treatment plants can adjust their processes accordingly.
GIS data analysis can also determine a more effective allocation of resources. For example, treatment facilities can prioritize efforts to tackle more contaminated sources or ensure they use the exact amount of required chemicals, maximizing both cost-efficiency and treatment efficacy.

A drop of water as a symbol of the need for water quality monitoring

Ensuring consistent access to safe drinking water

Clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. The backbone of better water quality technology and management, GIS ensures consistent access to safe drinking water. GIS systems continuously monitor water sources, instantly flagging quality anomalies so that people always have access to safe water. Integrating seamlessly with distribution systems, GIS can also monitor water quality throughout its journey to households.

By analyzing data trends and identifying contaminants, GIS enables targeted and proactive measures protecting access to safe drinking water. GIS can even predict potential future contaminants, giving stakeholders the accurate, timely data they need that ensures drinking water access. And in the spirit of collaboration, offering real-time access to GIS data through public dashboards enhances transparency and fosters community engagement and trust.

Providing timely alerts

Timely information can be the difference between clean drinking water and a massive health disaster. From emails and SMS to dashboard notifications, GIS platforms can send alerts through various channels, notifying the right stakeholders of potential issues without delay.

With seamless integration for IoT sensors, GIS platforms can quickly detect contaminants and notify authorities of water quality changes. Because each water system has unique requirements. GIS-first platforms also include customizable alerts so that notifications are always relevant and actionable. And by analyzing patterns, GIS-first systems can even proactively send alerts before a potential contamination event occurs.

The future of safe water

From real-time monitoring to predicting potential threats, GIS-first platforms like Fulcrum are transforming water quality management. With its many capabilities, Fulcrum is more than just a monitoring or mapping tool. Fulcrum is an integrated system that provides actionable insights, helping stakeholders make informed decisions to protect our most vital resource.

The promise of safe and clean drinking water is not a receding hope or hard-won gambit, but an achievable reality.

Take the next step

Ready to revolutionize your water quality technology and data collection? Chat with a Fulcrum expert today and take the first step toward smarter, safer water solutions!