At Communities Unlimited (CU), the Geographic Information System (GIS) Team is led by Coordinator Don Becker, with Project Manager Trent Neathery and Specialists Alex Webb and Harrison Brown.

This story explains how GIS works and shows its benefits. By sharing clear visuals and engaging videos, we demonstrate how rural communities can use GIS to improve infrastructure, share information better, and boost efficiency and sustainability. See how GIS can be used by rural areas to transform record keeping and workflow while providing the latest web and mobile technologies to small, rural communities. We are able to customize GIS products specific to the needs of the community or utility. We will create data collection and mapping strategies that will allow you to quickly and efficiently implement web and mobile GIS maps.

General GIS Project Steps:

  1. Initial Data Collection:
    The Environmental Services Team and Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs) identify client communities that could benefit and may be eligible for updating their digital mapping products. The GIS team collaborates with the TAPs, who provide client community data, usually concerning water and wastewater accounts. Existing historical maps, engineering drawings, and diagrams are also collected.
  1. Geocoding:
    The team uses a geocoding software tool to convert addresses or location-based data into geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) for mapping. This transformation allows for spatial analysis, visualization, and mapping in a digital space.
  1. Mapping Points:
    Customer account addresses are plotted onto a map for reference.
  1. Fieldwork:
    The GIS team schedules in-person fieldwork, typically lasting three days, with the TAP joining in the client community. All water meters, valves, hydrants, and any other appurtenances are visited on foot and a high accuracy GPS location is collected during this time.
  1. Post-Processing:
    After all GPS coordinates have been collected in the field, post-processing begins by correcting data collection errors and drawing water lines. They then exchange draft maps with the client to ensure accuracy. Once approved, they provide the client with finalized printed waterproof maps, wall sized maps, and access to digital maps using ArcGIS Apps. Clients can then access the digital maps from the field on a computer or mobile device.

Benefits of Digital Mapping:

  • Asset Management: Manages locations of system assets and associated data.
  • User Experience: Provides a unique experience catered to each project.
  • Data Sharing: Allows sharing data with internal staff, contractors, and stakeholders.
  • Maintenance Coordination: Helps coordinate maintenance, repairs, budgeting, and system updates.

Additional GIS Services:

  • Complete Solutions: The GIS team offers turnkey solutions, including data collection, complete data sets, and on-site training.
  • Hybrid Support: They assist in data collection and provide continued support.
  • Drone Mapping: Creates high-resolution orthomosaics and base maps.
  • Cemetery Management: Partners with the Community Sustainability Team to collect GPS data on headstones and create high-resolution base maps.
  • Dashboards: Allows monitoring of data.
  • Lead and Copper Surveys: Assists communities in identifying lead service lines for replacement.
  • Well-Head Protection Maps: Creates protection area maps, along with from surface and elevation data analysis.
  • Business Analysis: Collects demographic data.
  • Impact Maps: Maps created to illustrate detailed contributions over a geographic area with associated data.

The GIS process ensures accurate, usable maps for various applications, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of managing and maintaining infrastructure systems.

"One of my favorite aspects of the GIS product is its ability to maintain a system indefinitely. Once we input everything into the system, anyone working for the water system, whether they are new hires or seasoned employees, can learn everything they need in just a few hours using that map.

Harrison Brown

— Harrison Brown, GIS Specialist

“It’s about creating a system with an application that allows them to maintain order and efficiency as needed. GIS is continuously evolving. Over the past few years and the last decade, it has grown exponentially. Every field can benefit from GIS because everything we do has a spatial component. Since we live on Earth, there’s always a spatial element to consider, and GIS can enhance any type of work by adding that spatial perspective.”