Once taken for granted in many parts of the world, water scarcity has become serious. Only 2.5 percent of that on the planet is fresh or drinkable. According to the World Health Organization, water scarcity affects one-third of the people on the planet. Almost 20 percent of all people live in areas where water is physically scarce.The scarcity is not relegated to an area like sub-Saharan Africa. California, a major source of food for the country, has seen the driest year on record. Perhaps it’s climate change or just bad luck, although there have been droughts that have lasted a decade or more. With growing demand from an expanding population, the region must do something.
Increasingly, GIS training has become part of the solution. Using location-based information and sophisticated analytic tools, municipalities have constructed sophisticated approaches to managing water resources.
Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District in California’s Riverside County serves a 96-square-mile area with 133,000 citizens. Field workers out of a staff of 160 need information when out of the office. The agency wanted a system that could integrate its existing GIS software and data with a customer information system and remote access to better handle between 3,000 and 4,000 service orders each month. As WaterWorld explained:
“We were looking to save time by not having to complete the service orders in the office and have them done only out in the field,” said Tammy Ramirez, meter services superintendent. “We needed a mechanism to move information out to the field and then back into the CIS system in a more streamlined manner.”
By combining GIS and customer information, field workers could more effectively and efficiently attend to service calls. How could such a mix of technology eventually help alleviate drought conditions? Simply. There are three interlocking mechanisms in consumption, waste, and supply.
As supply becomes scarcer, the problem of waste takes on greater urgency. Plot and monitor water mains and pipes and the information, in the hands of crews, can speed the repair of equipment, reducing 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.
Expect more communities, cities, counties, states, and countries to more actively use GIS when managing water resources and usage. When supplies get scarce, people will want to know where every drop is.