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Bridging Islands of Data

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Over the past decade, the use of database management systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the engineering business arena has grown tremendously. Engineers and professionals in the water and wastewater industry have invested heavily in their information technology (IT) infrastructure, GIS and database systems. As a result, utilities enjoy improved process efficiency and effectiveness. Database applications track information such as water use or billing information by parcel, GIS systems create maps, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems provide facility monitoring, and hydraulic models simulate water and wastewater systems.

Often, however, little upfront effort is made to consider the needs of the entire enterprise during system design and development. One application has no direct relationship to another, and organizations are left to deal with “islands” of data. The result is duplication of effort, inefficient use of available resources, and a lost opportunity to improve business processes.

By contrast, two central Florida utilities are phasing in applications that link data islands. The utilities have focused on getting the most value from their information repositories by creating means to deliver data easily and on demand to staff via the Intranet – all without special software or extensive training. User-specified applications have been developed to eliminate multiple databases and spreadsheets formerly used across departments, thus minimizing data duplication and inconsistencies. These applications create integrated systems that facilitate permit tracking, document management, construction management, hydraulic modeling, master planning, and other utility activities.

For these utilities, integrating technologies, such as GIS and enterprise database management systems, has significantly enhanced the capabilities of existing systems and availability and usability of data to end users. GIS is an excellent data mining tool, and the applications developed as a part of this integration bring the power of GIS to non-GIS users in the enterprise.

This paper tracks the design, development, and deployment of data integration and data mining applications in use at these utilities. The paper will also present lessons learned during the design and implementation process and provide recommendations for successful implementation in other water/wastewater organizations. While this paper focuses on water and wastewater utilities, the findings and recommendations are relevant for any government agency with a significant investment in IT resources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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