GIS Professionals Play Key Role Managing World’s Water Resources

– GIS Helps Monitor Water Resources and Usage Patterns –

AURORA, Colo. – October 14, 2014 – Water scarcity is a serious issue with nearly 1.2 billion people, approximately one-fifth of the world’s population living in areas where water is insufficient, according to the United States Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) 2006 Human Development Report. Geographic information systems (GIS) is a critical tool for establishing water resource solutions, which include assessing water quality and management.

“The UNDESA states that by 2025, some 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity. There is a social responsibility to become more efficient stewards of all aspects of water resource management as two-thirds of the world’s population is predicted to be under these stress conditions,” says Stephen A. McElroy, Ph.D., GIS program chair at American Sentinel University.

“Topics such as rate structures, allocation, consumption, conservation, water harvesting, runoff capture, recharge rates and storage options have all come under increased scrutiny. The diversity of water inputs and outputs requires a systematic means of managing water resources and GIS data provides the mechanism for addressing all aspects of the water management scenario,” says Dr. McElroy.

GIS Provides Broader Strategic View About Water Usage

The spatial location of water infrastructure assets is the starting point, says Dr. McElroy.

Geospatial professionals with advanced GIS expertise are at the forefront of the water management industry because the ability to manage the infrastructure is predicated on knowing what is where – from fresh water reservoirs and detention recharge basins to wastewater treatment facilities, water and sewer lines and local points of service, notes Dr. McElroy.

Water utility companies can manage, share and utilize spatial data through the use of an effective enterprise GIS system. This implementation addresses all aspects of the water delivery, treatment, recharge and management process.

“Enterprise GIS offers a single authoritative data source for all water-related infrastructure and resources that allows for integrated data analysis to monitor climate impacts, determine seasonal surpluses or deficits and manage supply and demand based on historical trends,” says Dr. McElroy.

GIS Reduces Water Stress By Tapping Alternative Solutions

Wastewater is a growing concern as water supplies become scarcer.

Ongoing developments in the application of the smart grid technology to the water industry include the placement of flow monitors, valve sensors and remote meter readers to quickly pinpoint areas of seepage, water loss, or unexpected consumption spikes. The geographic coordinates of all of these sensors allow field crews to isolate the spatial location of the problem.

Repairs are efficiently addressed when crews can plot and monitor water mains and water pipes, which reduce the amount of water that has been wasted.

“Plot drainage and a city can collect runoff water, redirecting it to constructive use. Modeling can also shed light on how runoff affects groundwater recharging, an important factor in availability when needed,” he says.

Dr. McElroy points out that rather than seeking alternative water sources, GIS can be used more effectively to estimate impervious surface areas to calculate appropriate storm water runoff tax rates or to identify properties with large lawns that could benefit from a conversion to low water use xeriscaping.

He notes that municipal building codes that require runoff detention basins adjacent to commercial parking lots or zoning codes that allow for residential rooftop water harvesting are simple strategies to utilize existing water resources more efficiently.

“When water supplies get scarce, people will want to know where every drop is, so expect more communities, cities, counties, states and countries to more actively use GIS to manage their water resources and usage patterns,” says Dr. McElroy.

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s geospatial degree programs.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.