Targeting utility infrastructure improvements

​As the country’s utility infrastructure continues to age, many local
governments will be faced with the task of updating or replacing
deteriorating structures. Since this process can result in high costs
for a community, many municipalities prefer to develop an infrastructure
improvement plan to make sure the areas most in need get updated first.
As part of the Village of Winnetka’s utility improvement plan, the
water and electric department recently analyzed the structural integrity
of village water mains by reviewing water main break incidents from the
last 20 years.

Main break records help to identify mains that are weak or have
become unreliable over time and, therefore, are in need of repair.
While several department members were aware of numerous water main
breaks that have occurred over the years, without a comprehensive view
of the entire village, it was difficult to determine which mains should
be considered high priority updates. To assist with identifying
priority update areas, the GIS department used address and location
information associated with each main break incident record to create a
spatial layer for the water main breaks that could be mapped and
analyzed in the GIS software.

While being able to spatially review the main break locations was
useful in identifying general problem areas across the village, it did
not help to highlight the individual water main features in the GIS that
the breaks occurred along. To help accomplish this task, the GIS
software allows for multiple features to be linked together using a
common attribute, which can allow for information from one feature to be
applied to another. For this project, both the water mains and the
main break records contained a water main numbering system used by
department staff to track and identify individual records. Using this
numbering scheme, the break records were successfully linked to the
water mains, thereby allowing each main feature to be visually
identified by the number of break records associated with it.

With the main breaks both spatially referenced and linked to the
existing water main features in the GIS system, the water and electric
department now has an efficient tool for reviewing mains where multiple
breaks have occurred. Being able to locate these high priority areas
without performing time-consuming field checks has also provided a
cost-savings to the department by improving staff efficiency and
allowing them to focus on other tasks. Using GIS to assist with this
project has improved the department’s ability to develop a more
efficient water main improvement plan and provides a visual reference
tool to assist with planning future improvement projects.