Academic journal article URISA Journal

Implementing a Utility Geographic Information System for Water, Sewer, and Electric: Case Study of City of Calhoun, Georgia

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Implementing a Utility Geographic Information System for Water, Sewer, and Electric: Case Study of City of Calhoun, Georgia

Article excerpt


Most utilities throughout the United States and abroad are planning or implementing an automated mapping-facilities management geographic information system (GIS) according to Cannistra (1999). Over the years, many organizations have come to realize that GIS not only helps manage the existing utility infrastructure, but also can help in the design for future expansion (Shamsi 2002, Croswell 1991). The utility industry is a major consumer of GIS because almost all utilities can be spatially referenced. For example, more than 80 percent of all the information that is within water and wastewater utilities is geographically referenced (Shamsi 2005). Utility organizations not only use GIS for the spatially referenced data but also for any information that could be used to carry out further analysis if needed. A GIS allows utility operators and managers not only to determine where their assets are located but to analyze attributes about those assets (Hughes 2006). The majority of the utility organizations reside in municipal governments. Traditionally, utility organizations managed their systems by paper maps.

Many municipal governments provide their citizens with public utilities whether electric, water, sewer, telecommunications, or gas. The size of the utility system depends on the size of the area and the population it serves. Typically, the local governments over the years have managed these utility systems using hard-copy paper maps. The hard-copy paper maps usually were produced by using a computer-aided design system (CAD). The CAD system has helped the utility organizations throughout the years with managing their assets, but it lacks the ability to provide the organizations with database technology. The database technology that is incorporated into GIS has greatly extended the ability to effectively manage the utility assets. Many nonprofit organizations and municipalities are drawn to employing a GIS because it has the ability to combine large amounts of data from different sources and on different media, order them into layers or themes, and analyze or display various relationships (Sieber 2000).

GIS is able to provide the utility organizations with endless amounts of information about their assets, whether spatial or nonspatial (Environmental Systems Research Institute, ESRI, 2003). Utility organizations spend a large amount of money and time on maintaining their infrastructures. By using GIS, these organizations are able to greatly reduce the amount of time and money involved on maintenance. Many of the organizations incorporate their work-order and billing systems into the GIS, which saves even more time and resources. The organizations are able to use one system to effectively manage all their utilities. Whether as a means of data dissemination or acquiring new data, data sharing has become an essential element of local government GIS processes (Tulloch and Harvey 2007).

The city of Calhoun, Georgia, has always utilized a CAD system to manage its utilities. The utility departments realized that the data in the CAD system was not accurate. The city started researching ways to improve the data and efficiency within the departments and wanted a centralized system that could be accessed across all departments in the city. While researching, the city found GIS and decided that it was the type of system it wanted to implement.


The GIS implementation process for a municipal government's utility system can be very complex, expensive, and time consuming, depending on what the organization is prepared to manage with the system (Uhrick and Feinberg 1997). The research objective is to review, explain, and provide an example of the implementation process for the water, sewer, and electric utilities within the city of Calhoun, Georgia. These utility areas are very common among a large percentage of the local governments in the United States. The implementation process involves determining the needs of each department and constructing an implementation plan to help track and determine the outcome of the overall system (Tomlinson 2003). …

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