MAPPING/Software helps utility track miles of water pipe
Cincinnati Water Works (CWW) is in high demand. Warren, Butler and Clermont counties have clamored to use the utility’s water, which is cleaned using a carbon filtration system. Even Kentucky’s Boone County has asked the utility to tunnel under the Ohio River to provide the county’s residents with water from CWW. To keep track of its expanding network of pipes, CWW has begun using mapping software.
Before using the software, surveyors and designers maintained maps of the utility’s pipe network on mylar sheets. Some of the maps were 100 years old and had to be updated manually. That meant that surveyors had to carry paper maps into the field, take measurements and bring data back to designers to make changes. However, the water utility’s service area had grown to include about 2,800 miles of water main, and, when it made plans to replace 1 percent of those pipes every year, CWW knew it had to find a better mapping method.
Instead of continuing to use mylar sheets to map designs and updates, the utility implemented a $30 million software upgrade in 1993 and equipped its engineers with computer-aided design stations loaded with mapping software from San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk. The applications were compatible with those used in neighboring jurisdictions, allowing the utility to access map data in the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System, a citywide repository of GIS maps.
In 2000, the utility updated its mapping software with a version that includes tools for posting data to the Internet. Now, programmers can create Web sites that have maps, news articles, cost analyses and private chat rooms for teams of engineers and consultants. Also, inspectors can go to pipe installations in the field and get vector or raster images of maps on handheld devices.
“When I think of how our systems are now compared to when I started here [in 1990], with all the paper we were shuffling, the primitive software — it’s really [different],” says William Martin, a programmer analyst in the utility’s engineering division. “At some point I’d like for us to have a real-time connection between the inspectors in the field and our office, so they can instantly transfer data from the handhelds to us via a Web server. The technology is there.”