Having an accurate inventory of the components that make up a
municipal utility system is very important to the overall success of a
city or village maintaining that utility at a high performance level.
While this type of inventory has traditionally involved descriptive text
information regarding a particular utility system feature, with a
robust GIS system that same inventory can now contain a spatial
component. By adding this spatial aspect, the municipality can better
track and maintain their capital investments and the overall integrity
of the system. Recently, the Village of Winnetka took advantage of its
GIS system to help develop an electric pole inventory for its Water and
Electric department to use for future maintenance and analysis.
Developing a utility inventory can include GIS on varying levels of
involvement and complexity. For the Village of Winnetka, a basic GIS
pole feature class existed prior to the current inventory, however it
lacked completeness, both spatially and in attributes, and was not
heavily used by the Village staff. To help make the data more complete,
the Water and Electric Department hired a utility consulting firm to
collect GPS field data of the village poles, using the existing GIS pole
features as a base. Having an existing GIS database structure to work
from, the data collection only took a few days and was able to be
seamlessly transitioned from the field to the office using a simple
database relationship. While the Village GIS Department did not create
the more advanced inventory currently being used, it did provide the
basic framework that made the data collection process run more smoothly
and provides the tools for viewing and analyzing the final product.
Moving forward, the Village can now use the electric pole information
to help locate potential problem areas and better plan for future
enhancements or changes to the system. While the existing, descriptive
text inventory that was primary being used was useful for general
information about a specific pole, it did not provide a holistic view of
how that information related to other assets across the Village. By
integrating a spatial component, the department can now better analyze
how individual parts of the system relate to each other and be more
informed about the system moving forward.
Using GIS as a medium to store utility system information provides a
significant advantage to governments at all levels when considering the
time and money it can save in general maintenance and everyday labor.
Viewing this kind of information spatially and relationally to
surrounding features, as the Village can now do with its electric poles,
expands the ability of both individual departments and overall
government bodies to maintain higher performing systems and more provide
more reliable services to their residents.