Using GIS for water main break analysis


For local governments, updating and replacing components of
publically funded services, such as utility systems and roads, is
critical for maintaining the overall well being of the community and the
happiness of its residents. One example of how a community can
determine which component of a system may need to be replaced is by
tracking breaks that occur within the water system mains. For the
Village of Winnetka, IL Water and Electric Department, tracking this
information is critical when developing a construction budget from year
to year and for highlighting potential problem areas that may require
future improvements. To assist with determining which water mains
should be considered for replacement in the most recent budget year, the
village Geographic Information System (GIS) department was asked to
generate a map highlighting all the mains in the village that had
recorded breaks over the past 25 years.

Using previously mapped water main data and the recorded water main
break locations, the GIS department was able to link individual main
break records to specific water mains. Once the break records were
linked to the main data, the number of breaks per main could be
calculated and used for mapping across the village. An additional
component that needed to be considered as part of the budgeting process
was past water system improvements that were not captured by the raw
main break data. By factoring in system mains that were already
replaced or repaired during previous years, the GIS department was able
to filter out numerous main breaks that would have otherwise been
included in the analysis, thereby providing a more accurate product that
reflected the true number of breaks within the system.

Using GIS to analyze the water main break information tracked by the
Water and Electric department provided a powerful analysis and
visualization tool for viewing this information across the entire
village. Providing a spatial, easy-to-understand final product allowed
department staff to make more informed decisions regarding the next
year’s construction budget, leading to more responsible fiscal spending
and better resource management.