Using GIS to Find Population Affecting Outfalls

The Village of Morton Grove, IL was required by the EPA to conduct an analysis of the population affecting the sewer outfalls in the village. The EPA needed to know how many people contributed to each outfall through the village sewer system. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a study was done to find the sewer system pipes that connect homes to each outfall and then compare this to the population of the village.

First, census data was used to find the population of Morton Grove by census block. Then, because the sewer system is connected throughout the village, desktop GIS software was used to derive which homes and areas were connected throughout this system to each outfall. Comparing these two yielded the population that contributed to the drainage from each outfall.

Morton Grove was able to accurately respond to the question posed by the EPA and deliver a map and analysis along with their report. Having an accurate and connected sewer system through GIS was an important aspect to allow this kind of analysis to take place.

How MapOffice™ Web Access has Eliminated GIS Software Costs

The City of Lake Forest, IL has recently eliminated the need and cost of having ArcGIS software on each of their utility locate field laptops. Now using an online application called MapOffice™ Web-Access (MOWA), Public Works staff now has the ability to perform their required tasks without the need to carry additional software costs. Previously the four utility laptops were equipped with desktop GIS software that required an annual maintenance fee. This software was not designed as a basic map viewing environment, which resulted in a challenging user experience for the Public Works staff as they would periodically need the guidance of GIS personnel in order to accomplish basic tasks. The laptops would also have to be decommissioned quarterly to perform data updates, which resulted in a brief stoppage of work.

The first step in migrating from the desktop software environment was to have the City of Lake Forest’s IT department work with GIS staff to implement MapOffice™ Web-Access within the city to allow it to be accessed from any city workstation or laptop.  Once MOWA is accessed, a login will be prompted to ensure data security. Due to the internet accessibility on the utility locate laptops, MOWA could now be utilized in the field as a substitute for the existing GIS desktop software. To make it easy for the Public Works staff to access and use MOWA, a shortcut link was placed on each of the laptop desktops and an initial training session was held for Public Works staff to provide them an opportunity to learn and ask question about the application.

The implementation of MapOffice™ Web-Access has greatly reduced the city’s GIS licensing costs and provided a more efficient method for Public Work staff to accomplish their utility locate duties. City staff also has an intuitive application that no longer requires a heavy learning investment and the laptops no longer need quarterly updates because the data is updated via the internet without interrupting use.

Flood Location Mapping for a Series of Rain Events

During the summer of 2014 the Village of La Grange, IL experienced multiple high intensity rain events that exceeded the capacity of the village’s sewer system, resulting in flooded basements, streets, and rear yards.   On August 22nd, 2014, approximately 4.24 inches of rain fell over the area in a short amount of time.  In this and several other heavy rain events in June, water flowed overland and pooled in depression areas, resulting in water entering houses through window wells and other low openings. This event caused numerous basement backups throughout the village, of which the Public Works Department received hundreds of reports of flooding and damage as a result.  To help the department get a better picture of the extent of the flooding, they asked the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to map all the locations where a flooding call was reported to see if there were any patterns that could be determined.

As a new member of the GIS Consortium, the village’s Public Works Director called upon GIS to map out the addresses provided by the callers in order to distinguish where concentrations of various types of flooding occurred. The GIS department took the address and flooding type list provided by Public Works and mapped these addresses against the address database in La Grange. This plotted out the points on a map and the points were symbolized according to the flooding type. The maps were used as tools to best deploy resources and understand areas of focus and concern.

Field Collection of Lighting Infrastructure

The Village of Glenview, IL streets contain over 1,800 street lights and taking care of them is a daunting task even in the best of circumstances.  By leveraging the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department, the Public Works department was able to put in place a procedure to more rapidly and accurately collect data about their own lighting network to assist with asset management activities.

By utilizing an application called ArcGIS Online Collector, the GIS and Public Works staff were able to collaborate and design a process that is simple to use in the field, easy to learn, and function in all types of conditions. The Collector application is able to run on both Android and Apple tablets and smartphones, providing additional flexibility to staff with how and when they could collect the necessary information in the field.

In addition to tracking the physical location of the light infrastructure in the village, this application also allows village staff to track issues with certain lights, repair history, and parts needed to fix parts of the network. In addition to collecting information about a particular light, the application also allows for the capture of photographs of the lights that can be uploaded instantaneously to a server environment.  Is allows staff back in the office to review the data collection as needed without having to travel into the field to do so.  All of this data is easily accessible through an online interface and is available for download and implementation into a work order tracking spreadsheet.

By utilizing this mobile technology, the Village of Glenview is able to have a more accurate picture of their assets in the field.  This provides both staff in the office and staff in the field a centralized environment to access and modify asset information, thereby saving time on duplicated work efforts and money on staff time spent looking for the most current information.

Using Mobile GIS to Track Street Resurfacing Ratings

The City of Park Ridge, IL streets are constantly facing the wear and tear of everything from vehicles to weather, which leads to the roads needing to be resurfaced after a number of years once they’ve reached a certain level of damage. To better track which streets need to be resurfaced in a given year, city staff need to inventory them on a yearly basis and assign a numerical value to prioritize which ones are in the greatest need. To help accomplish this, the city leveraged a mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) application that allowed staff to go out and track this type of information in the field.

The street condition ratings used to prioritize the streets resurfacing program were collected using a mobile application called Collector. This application allows a user to collect GIS data out in the field on a tablet or other mobile device, add attribute information to it, and even add photos or other attachments to the geographic location. This information can easily be imported and accessed in a desktop GIS system, allowing for data collected in the field to be mapped and analyzed by the city’s GIS staff.   For the current year’s street resurfacing rating project, every street that’s maintained by the city was loaded into the Collector application and displayed based on the rating information that was collected from the previous year’s review. With the Collector application, the engineer leading this project went out in the field using a city iPad, determined the new street rating, and manually entered the new rating directing into the GIS data rather than entering it into a spreadsheet and providing it to the GIS staff for entry.  Once all the street ratings were entered for the current year, the engineer began the process of determining which streets need to be resurfaced based on the information captured using the Collector application. 

Retention Pond Mapping

Retention ponds can play a vital role in storm water management and flood control.  The Northbrook Public Works Department worked with GIS in order to help map and track the retention ponds in the Village.  Previously, a spreadsheet with an address was used to track the location of retention ponds.  Public Works wanted to ability to visualize these locations on a map while still maintaining the information available through the spreadsheet.

So, what is the purpose of tracking retention pond locations and what information is valuable to know about them?  First, it was very important for Public Works to know the locations of the outfalls.  During heavy rain events, the outfalls can become backed up and prevent water from flowing as designed.  It is important that the outfalls become cleared quickly.  By mapping those locations as a custom overlay on MapOfficeTM Public Works can then spend less time looking for outfalls and get them cleared sooner.

Public Works also tracks who is responsible for retention ponds and clearing any blockages.  When a call comes in about a blockage, Public Works can easily see who is responsible and notify the caller if it is a private retention pond.  The custom overlay will also be available to the public so they can gather this information themselves. 

Other Village departments can also benefit from the tracking of the retention ponds, especially in the centralized location of MapOffice.  Engineering can store information such as pond volume or hyperlinks to drawings.  The Fire Department can track depths in the case divers are needed during missing person searches.

GIS Supports Hydrant Flushing Efforts

The Village of Mundelein, IL conducts annual hydrant maintenance in which the Public Works Department’s Water Division flushes each hydrant and creates a list of hydrants that need repair.  After the flushing and maintenance is complete, the Water Division submits a report describing which hydrants where flushed and which hydrants were repaired.  Previously, to track progress through the village, the Water Division would print out paper map pages created in CAD and highlight the streets with a maker as a way to indicate the areas they have worked on.  In 2014, they asked the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) office to create a simple map book, with a page created for each area that they were planning to work in, to make it easier for them to locate hydrants and track progress.

Using Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop software, the GIS office staff created this book, with each flushing area shown on 1-3 pages, with only the hydrants for each specific flushing area shown.  A unique ID for each hydrant was also displayed on the individual map pages to allow staff to match a hydrant in the field to hydrant records in a corresponding Excel worksheet being updated with the information for each hydrant that was gathered during the flushing process.  These cleaner looking and functional maps made locating the hydrants much easier than in the past.  In addition to creating products to help locate the hydrants, the Director of Public Works requested that the GIS office also create a map once all work was completed showing which hydrants were flushed and repaired based on the final reports submitted by the Water Division flushing crews.  This map was easily created using the existing map pages created for the hydrant locating map book and can be used moving forward to assist with planning future hydrant flushing work.

Using GIS, the Water Division now has a good visual tool for tracking hydrant flushing progress.  They are also able to enhance their hydrant flushing reporting process by adding a graphic component that shows where the work was done and where they may need to focus their maintenance efforts in future years.

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.

Northbrook Maps Fiber Network US GIS

​The Village of Northbrook has many utility systems and features that it maintains and tracks.  One such system is the fiber optic network.  Fiber optic cable has been laid throughout the Northbrook to provide fast and secure internet and communication for both Village and other governmental agency buildings.  While not all of the fiber network is owned and maintained by the Village it is necessary to keep track of its location to prevent damage during construction work or for repairs and maintenance.  For these reasons GIS was asked to assist in entering, maintaining, and providing maps for locates.  To complete this project the GIS specialists combined imported CAD data from the Village and field notes from the JULIE locator to enter the most up to date fiber location information possible.  After being reviewed by Public Works staff, a custom overlay was created and added to MapOffice Web Access detailing overhead vs underground, status, and ownership of the lines.  Also included are the locations of hand holes, poles, and splice points.  By making this map available on the MapOffice web application, staff in the field doing JULIE locates can easily pull up the information on their field laptops for use as well as send updates and additions using the ‘Markup’ tool from the field.  Additionally, maintaining this utility network in GIS provides the Northbrook IT department with a clear picture of where their important fiber optic assets are located across the Village, and can be used to help locate outages if they occur.

Mobile GIS Makes its Debut in Riverside

The Village of Riverside, IL has over 1,700 street signs within its 2 square mile municipal boundary, which equates to one street sign every 10 feet.  Combine the number of signs in town with a small, full-time public works staff, and the result is the management and maintenance of the street sign inventory being a cumbersome undertaking.  To assist with managing this inventory, the Public Works staff asked the village Geographic Information Systems (GIS) staff to create a process that would allow the department to store and update the inventory in a digital environment. 

Recently, a mobile GIS data viewing and editing application, called Collector, was released by a GIS software company called Esri.  The Collector application is available for use on the Apple or Android tablets already owned by the village, so no additional hardware costs were needed.   The licensing for this application is included in a bundle with the GIS desktop software licensing the village already pays for, which adds further value to the program without the need to spend additional funds.   The Collector application allows Riverside’s Public Works staff to update a sign’s location, maintenance, and condition information in the field as part of their everyday workflow.  More importantly when the staff member updates the sign information, the changes are seen instantly on the device and are available to staff throughout the village within 48 hours as a layer in the village’s web-based mapping application, MapOffice™.  Having the ability to make changes to the inventory digitally removes the need of owning and operating large format printers that are typically used for printing paper maps for use in the field and reduces the turnaround time for making the most up-to-date information available to all village staff.