Modeling Retention Pond Capacities

Managing storm water is a major issue for all GIS Consortium communities.  When a recent home improvement was proposed in a small subdivision of the Village of Northbrook, engineers were concerned about the ability of the retention ponds for that subdivision to hold increased storm runoff.  Engineering contacted GIS to help determine the capacity or volume of water the two retention ponds can hold.

GIS was able to used contour data and as-built drawings to model the slopes and depths of the retention ponds.  That data was then converted to a Raster, a GIS feature used to model elevation as seen in the image above, which can then be used to perform complex analysis.

Using the GIS Consortium shared resource, Spatial Analyst Extension, GIS was able to utilize tools that analyze the elevation raster and calculate volumes and surface areas at given elevations.  GIS was then able to provide engineering staff with the retention pond capacities (volumes) at many different elevation levels.  The retention pond capacities could then be compared with impervious surface calculations and projected runoff volumes to determine if the ponds can handle the additional water load. 

The retention pond capacity study completed by GIS provided engineering with useful and accurate information that otherwise would have been taken many hours of hand calculations perform.  The data provided allowed engineering staff to make the best possible decisions regarding home improvements and storm water runoff.

ArcGIS Online Pavement Marking Collection


The City of Des Plaines has been looking to create an inventory of the city owned pavement markings.  In the past, they’ve had workers use aerial imagery in the office or paper maps out in the field to update the information.  Unfortunately, the aerial imagery is not always current and sending people out in the field with paper maps can be time consuming when the data is brought back into the office and has to be implemented into the database by hand.  The Engineering Department has been looking for a way to collect the information out in the field and update the databases without having to use paper maps.

A project was created in ESRI’s ArcGIS Online program that allows the user to collect pavement marking information in the field using the Collector Mobile Application.  The Collector Application allows the user to add in pavement marking lines and accompanying attribute information in the field using a mobile device like an iPad or Android Tablet.  The application has the aerial imagery and base map data for the city, so the user can place pavement marking features in the exact location regardless of imagery vintage.  This eliminates the need to collect the information in the field on paper and then bring it back into the office to have someone manually update the information in the GIS system.  With the Collector Application, the updates are either synched in real-time out in the field or loaded into the system in a one step process in the office.  By using GIS, the Engineering department was able to come up with a solution for updating pavement marking data in the field, eliminating the need for someone to collect the information in the field and then manually update the information.

Business Intelligence Launches in Northbrook


The Village of Northbrook has recently launched the MapOffice Web Access tool called Business Intelligence.  Business Intelligence is a tool that allows users to filter and display live data from community or custom databases. 

Three attributes of Business Intelligence, filtering, visualization, and live data, make it a very powerful tool.  Business Intelligence allows users to visualize data on a map by plotting that data by address or XY coordinates.  Many times, community databases or software do not have great ways to display the wealth of data they hold.  Business Intelligence helps solve this problem by connecting to those databases and displaying the data on MapOffice so users can gain further incite about the data or look for trends.

When looking for trends it is sometimes necessary to manipulate how you view the data.  Business Intelligence permits the user to filter the data by date and/or a field within the data.  For example, Northbrook has set up a connection to a custom home foreclosure database that allows users to filter foreclosures by date and the foreclosure status.  Now the user can narrow the data that is displayed to show only what they are interested in.

Finally, Business Intelligence offers live connections to the databases.  This can be extremely powerful as users can view and analyze data held in the database as it is updated without having to wait for data to be uploaded to MapOffice.

The Village of Northbrook looks forward to taking advantage of this useful and powerful tool by connecting to community databases and software such as FireHouse, an ERP system, and many others to come.

Water Main and Bike Path Improvement Support

A small portion of the Village of Glenview’s 2014 capital improvements budget was allocated to pave a dirt bike path located in a public right of way between the backyards of two neighborhoods.  Once the village engineers began planning the paving project, they realized it would be advantageous to also replace an aging water main that runs adjacent to the bike path in an effort to minimize construction costs and the frequency of construction in the area.  Since this was somewhat of a last minute project, engineers decided to do all planning and construction internally, rather than using an outside contractor.  Engineers were able to field check a quick plan that seemed to fit in the small area, but in order to verify the plan would work prior to surveying the area, they asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a map displaying accurate measurements to verify that their field checks align spatially with the surrounding infrastructure, fences, and private property.

To ensure the mapping for this project was accurate, GIS staff located and digitized existing water infrastructure, fence lines, private property, and the existing bike path using multiple sets of aerial imagery from various years.  Once these fixed points were identified, the GIS staff used the field measurements provided by engineering staff to create a map displaying the proposed new water main in the exact location it would be at when installed in the field.  Without GIS, village engineers would not have been able to mock up the project beforehand and would have needed to survey the project right away, without the guarantee that their plan would work.   This would cost a considerable amount of money, both in initial costs and in potential redesign costs if the project did not work as planned.  GIS was able to quickly turn around a map that was used as both a planning tool by village staff and a tool to inform residents where work would be done near their homes.

GIS Assists with Capital Project Public Outreach

​The Village of Deerfield, IL prides itself on operating in an accessible and open manner with full transparency to its residents and those interested in learning more about the village.  In keeping with these values, the village Engineering department approached the Geographic Information System (GIS) staff with a request to help make progress of seasonal construction projects more visible to the public, highlighting how the project develops over the construction season.

In 2015, the village embarked on large scale resurfacing, replacement, and reconstruction projects of seven major roads.  By utilizing GIS, an online map was created for the village website that displays each project area and pictures showing the before condition of the road to be replaced.  By clicking on each picture, more information about the details of each project can be learned, including appropriate contact information for village staff in case any questions or concerns may arise from the work being done. Additional links located in the map allow village residents to subscribe to a given construction project and receive emails at regular intervals providing progress updates for that project.

The future of this online map is to create a before, during, and after display of pictures that shows the gradual progression of each active project.  Eventually, this product will also contain a repository of all documented historical construction projects in the village and provide employees and residents with an easy-to- use tool to search construction history.

3D Modeling Aids Decision Making


3D mapping is a relatively underutilized aspect of GIS in local government.  The Village of Northbrook was recently able to use 3D mapping when considering two options for an intersection improvement.  One option included the construction of new curbs to adjust the traffic pattern.  The other option called for orange road delineators to direct traffic in place of curb construction.  The road delineators would be the less expensive option but there were concerns from Village staff about the appearance of a permanent road delineator installation. 

This is where GIS was contacted and asked if there was a way to model the intersection in 3D to better understand how the intersection would look with permanent road delineators.  We were able to take advantage of the ESRI 3D Analyst extension, a shared resource available through GIS Consortium, which can be used to create and view scenes in 3D.  Using road delineator specifications and accurate GIS data such as roads and buildings, GIS was able to create a 3D model relatively accurate to scale.  GIS was then able to provide engineers and decision makers with multiple views and angles including bird’s eye and profile views of what the intersection would look like.

The 3D intersection model can now be used by decision makers to weigh the costs and benefits of the road delineator option by comparing both the associated construction or maintenance costs and visual appearances.    

Highland Park Launches Community Portal


The City of Highland Park made a recent addition to the main page of the website; Property Search, also known as Community Portal. Highland Park has long been directing the public to MapOffice Public for their information needs but now the public has another site at just the click of a mouse.

Community Portal makes looking up property information quick and easy.  On the front page of the Highland Park webpage is a "Property Search" widget that directs the public to enter an address for more information.  When an address is entered in, Community Portal launches itself with a "Property Summary" landing page. Multiple tabs of information are provided within Community Portal and it is completely customizable based on the community’s needs. The idea behind Community Portal that makes it so different from MapOffice is that not all information needs to be displayed on a map such as garbage pickup day/time, rather just text information is needed which is where Community Portal steps in. It is the simplicity and ease of use that makes Community Portal so beneficial to Highland Park.

As Highland Park begins to understand what information the public is looking for, Community Portal will be developed further around that. As stated earlier, it is completely customizable based on the communities needs and that is how Highland Park will advance itself in providing need to know information to the public. More to come with Community Portal!

Street Sign Inventory Field Collection


As part of the MUTCD Sign Retroreflectivity program, communities are required to keep an inventory of their existing street signs which they will then use to create a maintenance program for sign retroflectivity.  The City of Des Plaines has a sign inventory that they have created in the past, but they wanted to make sure their inventory was up-to-date.  They determined that they wanted to send employees out in the field to confirm existing sign locations and collect any additional signs or information.

The City of Des Plaines decided to use the ArcGIS Online Collector Application to capture missing sign locations and information.  The Collector Application is a program that can be downloaded to most mobile devices that allows the user to capture GIS field data, such as point locations and attribute information, and then sync the data back with the main database.  The City of Des Plaines is using an Apple iPad with offline editing, meaning that all the changes are stored on the device and then when an online collection is established back in the office, the changes are then synched.  The Collector Application is set up so that the user only has to place sign or post locations and then choose from drop down menus for any of the sign attributes.  This allows the user to quickly place locations and add in the necessary information, without wasting any time.  By using the Collector App and GIS, the City of Des Plaines is quickly revising their Sign Inventory in conjunction with the MUTCD Sign Retroreflectivity Program.

Water Main Break Impact Analysis

Part of the responsibility of the GIS Consortium (GISC) is to collaborate between communities and to obtain shared solutions.  A recent request to estimate the impact of water main breaks was noted as having great potential to be a standard analysis that could be performed for all communities.

Considering this tool could be utilized by all GISC member communities, GISC staff took some time to create a model that evaluates water mains, water laterals, water valves, and addresses to achieve an estimate of households impacted by a water main break and the subsequent repair of that break.  The tool is flexible enough to review the community’s entire water system or just a specific area of interest.


It is expected this will be a powerful tool for Public Works and Engineering personnel to determine areas where they could decrease the number of residents impacted by water main breaks by proactively installing additional water valves.  These new water valves would create shorter sections of continuous water mains and therefore fewer residents would be impacted by future main brakes.

GIS Consortium 3D Mapping Potential


A recent objective of the technical staff in the GIS Consortium (GISC) has been to investigate the potential for 3D mapping and to be sure the GISC’s data model continues to advance and support these new technologies easily.  3D mapping in GIS has been possible for some time now, but it has always been a matter of the ease of doing so.  The value of the 3D products must provide a benefit greater than the time and software costs required to create them.


The GISC’s software provider, ESRI, has an extension called 3D Analyst which provides the 3D mapping opportunities by rendering GIS data that has elevation, height, or level information assigned to it.  A new addition to their suite, called CityEngine, provides for texturing of data to make it appear even more real if needed, but much more time is required to add those components to the map.  These zoning and tree infestation images highlight the kind of maps that can be created and analysis that can be performed using 3D Analyst.  It is quite clear how valuable the third dimension of information is to communicate the volume of infrastructure, natural or manmade, that exists in an area and the impact they have on their surroundings.  GIS is a decision support tool and 3D obviously has a part to play for the GIS Consortium member communities.