City of Aurora Honored for Water Operations GIS Overhaul

Redlands, California—The Colorado Government Association of Information Technology (CGAIT), a council of IT directors and experts tasked with ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in government information technology, selected the City of Aurora as a winner of the CGAIT 2016 Excellence Award.

The city earned the honor in the Improving Internal Operations in Your Agency category for its work in modernizing municipal water operations with geographic information system (GIS) solutions from Esri.

"The competition was very close this year," said CGAIT vice chairperson David Bessen, IT director of Arapahoe County. "We had a dozen entries, and they were all excellent, so the selection process was challenging."

As part of the operations overhaul, the city used Esri’s ArcGIS technology to update how staff track, record, upload, map, and publish changes to 3,000 miles of pipe and 175,000 water utility assets, such as manholes, valves, vaults, and meters.

The city switched from a paper-based model and invested in 173 Android tablets outfitted with Esri’s mobile data collection app Collector for ArcGIS.

Prior to the switch, Aurora Water utility staff used GIS to develop paper and PDF map books from digital civil plan sets. Staff had to spatially adjust the infrastructure and manually attribute changes in order to see the network intricacies. Because of the high volume of information, the city maintained separate map books for its drinking water, storm drain, and sewer utilities.

"Our paper-based process was labor intensive and jeopardized the integrity of the spatial data," said Sarah Young, planning services manager at Aurora Water. "The tablets have allowed our staff, for the first time, the ability to compare overlapping utility information simultaneously, which is important for our locates staff, inspection teams, and construction project managers."

Aurora Water’s use of Collector for ArcGIS with ArcGIS Online enables fieldworkers to collect and upload mobile data directly in the field, ensuring that Aurora Water has an accurate and real-time picture of the state of its utilities.

"Collector for ArcGIS provides us with the opportunity to team up with our operations staff to correct inaccuracies in our GIS in a quick and easy manner," said Young. "It is critical that our infrastructure locations are accurate when trying to repair a water main break at 3:00 a.m. in a major roadway."

Eliminating the manual elements of mapping reaped further benefits for the city. The department’s innovative approach simplified workflows and increased information sharing among departments. As a result, Aurora Fire is better poised to respond to incidents with access to up-to-date information supplied by Aurora Water.

Moving to tablet-based data collection removed the logistical choke hold of the water department’s paper trail. The transition reduced the amount of work necessary to relay map corrections, submit form entries, scan images, and manually transcribe data. Aurora Water’s increased use of GIS ultimately saved the government time and money.

For more information on Esri mobile field data collection solutions, visit

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