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Title: GIS, SEWERS & MOMS – The Atlanta Story

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The City of Atlanta (COA) contracted the Program Management Team (PMT) under Clean Water Atlanta (CWA) to assist them with compliance to a Consent Decree, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1999, to reduce the number of overflows from their sanitary sewer collection system. PMT is comprised of a joint venture between Montgomery Watson-Harza and KHAFRA, as well as numerous sub-contractors. This paper will focus on how web-based mapping tools can dramatically change and improve the method in which cities conduct day-to-day sewer operations and hopefully, aid in compliance to the Consent Decree.

Working side by side with the City's Watershed Management Engineering Information System Division, KHAFRA has assisted in the effort to improve the city's mapping system by converting their CADD based sewer drawings to a GIS format. Simple, yet vital – this transformed a purely graphical representation of the city's collection system to a multi-dimensional information based system. Having their collection system in a GIS database provides sewer operations employees with a powerful tool to perform complex spatial calculations and queries especially when combined with other layers such as topography, hydrology, soils, geology and transportation to name a few. It also serves as an extremely helpful planning tool for Maintenance Operations Management System (MOMS).

KHAFRA also implemented a system, whereby this GIS information can be accessed/distributed via an Internet Mapping interface and conventional web-based tools. This effort allows every employee access to the GIS information, through their web browser, without requiring the user to load and maintain expensive, sometimes complicated, GIS software on their personal computer system.

In addition, KHAFRA was tasked with building an enterprise-wide GIS system. These data are stored in an Oracle database and accessed through ESRI's Spatial Database Engine (SDE). Enterprise-wide GIS is a term used to indicate that many different users can access and update a GIS database simultaneously without loss of information or corruption of datasets. This becomes very important in large organizations where multiple departments need access to and assist with maintaining different datasets used in the Geographic Information System.

Finally, KHAFRA has built on-line tools to ingest, QA/QC, track and report weekly work performed by the sewer operations field crews. In turn, data that has been entered can be queried by group, activity and/or date all through an online interface. This gives city managers and staff alike an easy Internet-based tool to query and analyze not only their own work performed during certain periods but also the work performed by others. The system allows this query to be pulled into a spreadsheet or database. In addition, the system allows the user to plot a map based on their query. Using this type of interactive mapping, city staff and managers can view the overall fieldwork that has been performed in the city as well as look for specific work performed during specific periods. These data may also be uploaded directly into the Hansen Work Management system.

Another application that is being explored is field reporting using handheld computers or tablet PC's. With the recent advances in technology, handheld wireless devices are not only feasible but also affordable offering powerful processors and direct Internet connections through a cell phone or other wireless device. Internet Mapping Services can be built to be displayed, real-time, over the Internet on a handheld wireless device. Inthis way, limitations with storage capacity are no longer a concern. GPS receivers can be added to the handheld device to accompany field investigations. Through internet mapping software a website can be built that displays maps of a whole city/county/state/country etc. including sewer lines, manholes, wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, aerials or satellite imagery. What would usually take hundreds to thousands of megabytes worth of storage now can be housed on a website server. Using ESRI ArcPad software, a user can load data from the hard drive or load a map from the website, where all the processing is performed on the server side, the client (handheld device) is just making the requests i.e.… zoom in, zoom out, pan, identify. The server can process these requests relatively quickly and send ∼2k images to the handheld device. Using ArcPad's development kit, customizing user input screens is a relatively simple task. The input screens will be built around a local database stored on the handheld device. This in turn could be synchronized when returning to the office or sent directly to the office via email or another wireless method. The applications being considered for development for the COA are creek crossing inspections, spill reporting and easement inspections. If these are successful, other field applications will be explored.

Currently nine customized mapping websites have been implemented to assist COA and PMT members with their day-to-day tasks. Several of these were designed as search engines – search for map by manhole identifier, search for map by street address etc… Other mapping websites were designed with additional GIS functionality for more experienced users. Both types have greatly aided the COA and PMT employees and their usefulness will continue to grow as they become a standard operating procedure.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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