GIS hub – very small system asset management project

Project description

The GIS hub is a map-based asset management strategy with the capacity to provide communities with an inventory of system components. Completing an asset management plan leads to a higher level of utility management and operations, which helps utilities obtain financing to repair, improve or update to more efficient infrastructure. The GIS hub will compile the information necessary for making cost effective asset management decisions and for answering the “how to pay” question that ultimately falls mostly to individual systems.

The GIS hub project includes development of a GIS server, smart phone data collection app, and auto-populated Excel spreadsheets that will be used to produce a simple asset management plan for the very smallest utilities.

The GIS server is a repository for community data, utility asset maps and other existing data. Existing data may include EPA data, climate change data, the EJ screen, and data shared by EFC partners. The GIS sever will be used to produce visual asset maps for communities. Communities can use these maps as a powerful tool when educating decision makers and ratepayers as to why the cost of water should be increased.

Additional project components include the creation of a smart phone app for field data collection and the creation of methodology for communities to collect and input data and ensure quality.  Together with auto-populated spreadsheets, these components will create a user-friendly asset management plan and digital record-keeping tool. The smart phone app is currently being piloted by the EFC and our partner, Eastern Washington University (EWU), and we are in the process of connecting the Excel spreadsheets.

This GIS hub project will help move communities toward full cost pricing that includes current operating costs and needed future investment—abandoning the keep it cheap at any cost mindset. The GIS hub and tools will lead an increased number of small utilities and Tribal communities that use GIS asset management to make informed, cost effective, capital outlay decisions.

Future year development of the GIS hub project may include the creation of a GIS tool to evaluate regionalization as a strategy for sustainability, the expansion of EWU’s work with U.S. Census and other data to better reflect/serve smaller and Tribal communities, and the creation of a Rural Needs Assessment tool. One of the long-term goals of this project is to promote an understanding of regionalization opportunities, which can create economies of scale and improve sustainability and result in the replacement of multiple aging and inefficient infrastructure facilities with a combined updated high efficiency utility.