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8 Reasons Why GIS Mapping Could be a Good Fit for Your System

1. You are going to retire someday:  GIS is a great tool for cataloging the thousand things you know that could be lost forever.  This information is a lot more than just the locations of lines and buried valves.  It includes little details like, “that valve at the bottom of the hill is broken in the ‘on’ position.” Or “you need a special tool to remove the meter at 301 Main St.”  Having a single place for everyone to record notes and pictures is invaluable for retaining knowledge as your staff changes.

2. Doing Locates:  In a recent survey of several rural water systems, people were asked what they use their GIS for.  The number one answer was “doing locates”.  When called out to mark the location of sewer and water lines, you just pull up your map on your phone and with the help of the background aerial photography or your phone’s GPS, you can quickly see which side of the road the lines are on plus the material and size.  You still have to use your underground detection devices, but the search area will be much smaller. 

3. Start A Valve Exercising Program: Another common response to the same survey was people saying that they finally started a valve exercising or hydrant flushing program once they had GIS because now their guys had a place to keep track of where they had worked. 

4. Easier to use:  Until recently, although a useful tool, GIS has been complex to use.  Some operators wear so many hats that they don’t have time to become an expert at some new technology.  But while we weren’t watching, GIS software has gotten easier to use as industry specific applications are popping up.  Newer GIS software applications, like Diamond Maps (, are piggy backing off of familiar technologies like Google Maps.  Web-based GIS solutions don’t even require you to install or backup anything.  You just log in from any computer, tablet, or phone.

5. Less Expensive: Up until recent years it was unlikely you could adopt GIS without paying tens of thousands of dollars up-front for software alone.  Now many GIS applications are sold for a small subscription as low as $20/month with no up-front purchase price.  Some applications like Q-GIS are even free.  As for hardware, many are just using the phone or PC they already have.  A sub-meter GPS receiver can be purchased for about $2,000 or you can even rent one.

6. Take Control: Many of these advances have moved the control of GIS from the engineer’s desk to where it belongs in the hands of the water and sewer operators.  Now when you dig up a line and discover that the map had it in the wrong place, you just change it right there in the field.  Before you might have turned in a change request to your engineer and waited for an update on next year’s map.

7. Streamline Funding: It is much easier to make your case for grants and loans when you can demonstrate that you know the current state of your system.  Your GIS can put you ahead of other systems who are competing for those same dollars by demonstrating that you know what you are going to spend it on. 

8. Help Is Available: Starting this year, TRWA plans to offer a mapping service.  For a reasonable charge, TRWA will be able to GPS map your water or sewer system and set you up with a turn-key GIS. For more information about GIS Mapping, please complete the contact form below. 

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