By Mark Wineka
How do you map 8,000 manholes, 380 miles of sewer and 420 miles of water lines?
You ask Kathryn Clifton and the Geographic Information System division for help.
The job took about four years total, but the in-house GIS mapping of Salisbury’s wastewater collection system was completed in the summer of 2005, and the water system was finished last spring.
The mapping of the water system is important to satisfy an Environmental Protection Agency mandate for water system monitoring.
The state of North Carolina also requires a mapping of the wastewater collection system for the city to receive a collection system permit.
But GIS Director Clifton told Salisbury City Council Tuesday that there are several other benefits and applications for the GIS mapping. It leads to increased efficiency, the saving of time and money and enhanced customer service, she said.
Clifton gave several examples.
For the city’s Land Management and Development Department, a developer might want to know about the proximity of water and sewer to his project. With GIS mapping, that information can be retrieved almost immediately.
Under the old system, it generally took half of a work day to get that data for the developer.
“Using GIS saves approximately $10,500 annually,” in taking care of those kinds of requests, Clifton said.
Before GIS mapping, a break in a city water main could take up to two hours to isolate and shut down the necessary water valves to stop the loss of water, Clifton said.
In 2006-2007, the city had 122 water main breaks, meaning considerable customer service disruptions and about 244 staff hours of time was required in isolating the leaks.
Clifton said using the GIS system saves roughly $13,500 a year and allows for almost immediate response when water-line breaks occur.
The Salisbury Fire Department’s use of the GIS mapping illustrates how it can enhance firefighters’ level of service, according to Clifton.
Firefighters en route to a fire used to rely on paper maps to locate the nearest hydrants and set up a plan of attack.
Now they can retrieve that information through Mobile GIS. The digital layers showing up on the firefighters’ computer screen pinpoint the buildings, water mains and fire hydrants, allowing them to select locations that provide the best flows to fight fires, Clifton said.
The digital mapping also has been important in fire insurance and economic development applications.
City Manager David Treme said the accuracy of Clifton and the GIS team that did the mapping could not have been matched by outside consultants.Clifton said Salisbury is one of the few ó and maybe the only one ó which has used only internal staffing to do the infrastructure mapping.
Clifton is only one of seven people in North Carolina designated as an ESRI Authorized ArcGIS instructor.
The training she provides to others has become a mini-enterprise for the city, Land Management and Development Director Dan Mikkelson said. Her classes raise $30,000 annually for the city, and that represents 20 percent of the GIS budget.
Clifton has been able to conduct introductory classes (56 times) for city employees and other individuals throughout the region.
“We’re really proud of what you’re doing for us,” Mayor Susan Kluttz told Clifton this week.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mark Wineka