Facility Dude

How GIS can help you stay on top of your aging infrastructure

By Emma Finch
Sep 11, 2015

Government, Technology

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How GIS can help you stay on top of your aging infrastructure Running any size government is hard work, especially when you have different services that must be provided to several areas at once. It can feel like spinning plates even when everything is running flawlessly, so you can imagine that any unforeseen maintenance issues only further complicate an already delicate balance.

When it comes to government operations, few things can throw a wrench in the works faster than infrastructure that breaks down. But as many municipal and state government officials know all too well, various districts across the country are currently dealing with essential infrastructure that is decades old.

Fortunately, GIS systems can offer a way to curb the problem of old and poorly functioning infrastructure, offering you previously unparalleled access to location-based data that can give you a significant advantage when it comes to staying on top of your scheduled and preventive maintenance on your essential infrastructure.

The aging infrastructure problem

The U.S. is just over 10 years away from celebrating its 250th birthday. Patriotism aside, the years have certainly taken a toll on the roads, water mains, power lines and other necessary everyday fixtures that make life possible.

Years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the country on the state of its infrastructure, Esri reported. Unfortunately, the inspection revealed the extent of the problem the country is facing, giving the country's infrastructure an overall "D" grade. There are many factors contributing to this, such as the age of the groundwork on which the country's cities were built being decades old - or older in some cases. Additionally, the original construction of much of these fixtures didn't take growth or integration into account. Now that cities are expanding at a tremendous rate, the older infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the load.

How GIS can help

The hard part about staying on top of maintenance issues across an entire city or municipality is juggling all the areas that require attention at the same time. Especially if you're working with limited resources in terms of money and personnel, you'll need to know not just what work orders are outstanding, but where each repair job is located and when it needs to be completed so you can more efficiently plan your maintenance jobs.

A key advantage of GIS systems is that they enable users to visualize data in a way not previously possible. Location-based information can be integrated with existing map data to show districts and neighborhoods based on a whole new set of criteria, such as severity and number of maintenance problems.

Seeing is believing

This ability to lay data out visually is crucial, as it gives officials the chance to see at a glance exactly which parts of the city, town or neighborhood are in the most need of repair work. Among the data points that GIS can help visualize for you are:

  • which areas have reported a maintenance problem
  • when the issues were reported
  • how often a given neighborhood is in need of corrective maintenance

GIS can also help you track not just the current state of infrastructure, but its age as well, enabling you to divide districts up by age of equipment. This is an important step in prioritizing future preventive maintenance efforts. For example, areas that are older will likely be in need of repair or replacement before parts of town that have newer infrastructure. The increased efficiency you'll enjoy from these advantages, not just in terms of more effective personnel planning and implementation, but also in terms of money saved thanks to greater efficacy, are sure to be appealing to any government official.

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