Mapping Wastewater Systems with GIS

It’s not unusual for counties and cities to have old, outdated information about their systems, such as water and wastewater utility systems. I’ve seen these situations many times throughout the years, and a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a perfect solution for turning existing data into something that’s much more useful.

We recently worked on a project where our client had CAD data that was in bad shape and needed to be converted into a GIS. Our team was tasked with setting up a database for all the existing information, cleaning it up, and converting it into a functioning GIS that they could use to maintain their sanitary sewer system.

We used aerial photography to make sure their data was as accurate as possible, and without having to go out into the field, we validated much of the information and made sure it gave the most accurate representation possible. Going manhole to manhole would have been much more time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.

The ability to better manage the systems was one of the biggest goals for the project. The client wanted to understand what they had and be able to access the information more readily. With GIS, they can easily see their existing assets and can link as-built construction drawings to expand their database with details on new additions to the system. They also have information on features of the wastewater system, such as size, materials, pipe, depths of manholes, etc., allowing them to run analysis functions on their system.

When it comes to sanitary sewer systems or other utility or transportation systems, municipalities can better handle their infrastructure for maintenance and accountability purposes and report generation. Having GIS for these systems is also beneficial for service crews that need to know where to find manholes or valves for maintenance and emergency response purposes.

Many counties and cities still use old paper maps or CAD files, especially those with smaller systems. It is harder for these areas to hire staff members to do GIS or purchase the necessary software. With a much smaller investment, our GIS team members at Sain Associates can easily handle the conversion and management, so even small organizations can benefit from GIS. Please contact me at if you have any GIS-related questions. We would love to make an impact in your community.