In 2002, Spatial Vision completed the first GIS Benchmark Survey of Water Authorities in Victoria. Spatial Vision has since followed this up with national surveys in 2006 and 2009. The purpose for the surveys is to enable each authority to benchmark their operational deployment of this technology against their industry counterparts.
Water authorities first started using GIS or spatial information technologies in the early 1980s. However, as evident by Google Earth, the technology has rapidly evolved in recent years and become far more accessible. By 2009, 100% of authorities surveyed operated web-based spatial systems available enterprise-wide, a huge shift from 40% in 2002.
Why is spatial information technology so important to water utilities?
According to respondents, this technology has the power to transform the effectiveness of their businesses by:
- Effectively locating people, places, services, businesses and points of interest
- Connecting systems, services and businesses
- Delivering services to customers, decision makers and regulatory authorities.
The Survey confirmed that GIS and spatial information makes a significant (high level) contribution to water authorities especially in the areas of knowledge management, locating assets and improved decision making.
Interestingly, Senior Managers were perceived to only moderately value the investment in the GIS technology. It remains unclear whether this is due to lack of awareness of the capability of the technology or whether it doesn’t live up their expectations.
Water authorities vary substantially in size, the nature of the services offered and infrastructure managed. To assist the analysis of the results survey, respondents have been allocated to one of four categories:
- Metropolitan Retail Authorities
- Large Urban Authorities (with greater than 35,000 connections)
- Small Urban Authorities (with less than 35,000 connections)
- Rural Water Authorities/Suppliers
The uptake of mobile mapping applications has also increased significantly since 2002. Mobile mapping is used primarily for asset mapping, problem solving (finding valves to shutoff), work-order dispatch and general data collection.
The size and type of authority influences many of the responses including the typical deployment cost. For example, on average, the Survey shows that rural water authorities spend between $50,000-$150,000 on their GIS implementation, while smaller urban water authorities spend closer to $300,000.
Another interesting dilemma highlighted in the Survey is the difference between the percentage of authority staff with access to GIS resources and the number that actually use them. Although spatial systems are typically made available to between 70% and 90% of authority staff (depending on the type of authority), generally around only 50% of these people actually use it.
This report does not reflect the GIS experience all water authorities in Australia. The survey results and this report are a representation of major trends in the use of GIS across the industry.