Twenty years ago, Des Moines Water Works’ maintenance crews relied on paper maps, three-ring-binders, and thousands of index cards to track the location and maintenance history for every pipe, valve, and fire hydrant in the Des Moines water system. When information was needed regarding a specific item, crews would call the dispatch center, wait while the dispatcher looked in the files for the information, and then take notes as the dispatcher read information over the radio. The process worked, but it took time and there was the opportunity for errors in translation.
Today, all of Des Moines Water Works’ maintenance vehicles are equipped with an onboard computerized Geographic Information System (GIS). This system, which uses ESRI geo-database software, provides even more information than was available from the historic files, provides that information without the need to wait or communicate over the radio, and provides it in a graphical format which is much easier to read and understand.
Personnel in the field now have access to detailed information on every valve or fire hydrant in the system including location, date of installation, manufacturer, depth, most recent date of operation, operational concerns, etc. Information is also available related to water main failures, pipe fittings and alterations, and other features which are buried below ground. Right-of-way lines, property lines, and building footprints are also shown for all properties in the city.
The GIS system is also GPS-enabled which allows crews to find their current location within the mapping system with the click of a button. Having this information available at their fingertips helps Des Moines Water Works’ crews work more efficiently.