With ArcGIS, I've created an accurate and accessible system of record that's also kept institutional knowledge. When I move on, whoever takes over will have the best tool that you can have: GIS.
Small Maine water district implements web maps to preserve institutional knowledge and improve field workflows
Hallowell Water District in Hallowell, Maine, is a small public water supplier with approximately 850 customers. Zach Lovely, superintendent of Hallowell Water District, is the only full-time employee and serves Hallowell and small areas of Chelsea and Farmingdale, Maine. He had a mission to better utilize Hallowell's maps to help improve efficiency and accuracy in the field. The water district enlisted the help of Honey Badger Analytics to move from reference data on the computer to digital web maps.
"We often tell folks that they don't need to be the GIS experts. That's our job," says Bradford Folta, ArcGIS architect and owner of Honey Badger Analytics. "Part of our job is to make their work lives easier by demystifying the Esri platform."
Honey Badger Analytics migrated Hallowell Water District from ArcMap desktop to ArcGIS Online and assisted Lovely in cleaning, collecting, and storing accurate data. Now when Lovely is working in the field, the digital maps help save time. The digitization of maps has increased the entire utility's efficiency, since Lovely is the only employee who works in the field.
For staff at Hallowell Water District, locating water mains and knowing where to dig for leaks is an essential part of the job. Hallowell's water system dates back to the late 1800s. While there is some historical documentation. According to Lovely, the Hallowell Water District didn't begin thoroughly documenting what went into the ground until the 1970s and 1980s.
"The district, prior Lovely, got to the point of ArcGIS Desktop that together with current paper maps gave insight into what was in the system and where it was," Lovely says. "A lot of it came down to locating the water mains and having a rough idea where you have to dig up the leak. You learn what's there." As there was no field access to the data or maps.
The water district often runs on institutional knowledge. When a superintendent retires, the new one starts with only paper maps or computer files as a point of reference. Sometimes organized, sometimes not. Lovely wanted to create an online system of record to make this multidisciplinary job easier, enable future employees to add and use data every day, and keep the institutional knowledge gained by the previous superintendent.
In 2014, Lovely and superintendent at the time began working with an older-version of ArcGIS, trying to make an accurate map using old data points. Lovely wanted a tool that could be understood and updated by whoever succeeds him.
Honey Badger Analytics seeks to enable small governments and municipalities with locational analytics that maximize organizational resources while decreasing loss of institutional knowledge. We have partnered with multiple organizations to provide a network of services catering to smaller governments and municipalities providing them resources regardless of their organizational size. Our projects are unique to our customer’s wants and needs with our goal to assist small governments and municipalities to flourish as they are the soul of our nation.
Lovely and Folta worked together through the whole process. Honey Badger Analytics began by learning Lovely's comprehension of GIS and assessing the district's current software. The next step was getting Lovely set up with the location intelligence enabling him to meet his goals.
Since water main lines and curb stop points are rarely moved, Lovely had most of Hallowell's asset location information collected but was missing key pieces and had new infrastructure to add. Lovely and the team from Honey Badger Analytics decided ArcGIS Online could meet and even exceed Hallowell Water District's needs.
ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based mapping and analysis solution that now works as the Hallowell Water District's data storage center. Lovely uses ArcGIS Online to make maps, analyze data, and share and collaborate. Honey Badger Analytics chose ArcGIS Online because it allowed Lovely off-site storage of data, access from anywhere, and use of ArcGIS Hub as the district's website. ArcGIS Online also gave him the ability to run data on a smartphone via ArcGIS Collector.
ArcGIS Collector is a mobile data collection app that makes it easy to capture accurate data and return it to the office. Lovely can use web maps on his mobile devices to capture and edit the field data. ArcGIS Collector integrates seamlessly into ArcGIS Online and works even when disconnected from the internet.
Lovely and the Honey Badger Analytics team cleaned, compiled, and uploaded the existing data, then went out to collect new data and to verify and correct existing data. Using ArcGIS Online, they created an accurate system of record, provided accessible data, and kept institutional knowledge.
Hallowell Water District now has accurate tools and insights with ArcGIS. Lovely says some of the biggest benefits he's gained from ArcGIS are the accuracy and accessibility of data and the time saved in the field. Lovely says he can look at a map in the field while standing on a site and see shutoffs for each house.
"The time savings is huge because we've been able to pinpoint where we have our leaks. We will locate them on our GPS map. So that way, down the road, when we're getting ready to do a main replacement, [we'll know] where we've had issues with leaks," Lovely says. "Then we can roughly know where we need to put the money, moving forward."
In a recent critical situation, the Hallowell Water District experienced a large house fire that burst a 6-inch main line. With ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Collector, Lovely identified the broken line and location of shut off valves, while remaining in the field.
"Without ArcGIS, I would have had to run back to the office and find the location of the valves in order to shut it down, possibly losing all remaining water in tank and having to risk the public’s health and safety," Lovely says.
Essentially being a one-person team, Lovely says the data accuracy and improved efficiency are the best tools he can have while in the field locating water mains, looking for leaks, and otherwise providing service for Hallowell.
Though the district had to invest time and money up front, Lovely says it will save Hallowell Water District money in the future.
"I think in the long run, [the investment] saves us money because if we're doing a water mains project, we can literally pass over the files to the engineer," Lovely says. "They can pull from that a computer-aided design file to show where the water lines are accurately on the set of plans or however you may have to use it."
With the Hallowell Water District seeing positive results across the organization, Folta says projects like this are why he is in this business.
"Lovely didn't need another complicated software," says Folta. "This is a guy who hates phones and computers, and here he is giddy about [this]. But that's why I am in this business—to make people more efficient and effective without drastically changing the way they work."
Lovely says that whoever takes over after he moves on will have the best, most accurate tools possible. He has begun sharing his experience with neighboring and partner districts.
"We work hand in hand with Gardiner Water District, [which] we sell water to. [Gardiner staff] also do a lot of my on-call work plus some of my daily operations," explains Lovely. "They're also doing an ArcGIS system upgrade with Honey Badger Analytics. It allows them to see my pipes as well as their assets. We kind of worked hand in hand on developing this whole process."
Folta continually strives to provide customers with everything they are hoping for and more, and he is pleased with the results Lovely has seen.
"One of my favorite phrases I listen for is, 'I wish it could …,'" Folta says. "I know if it's something I can provide in our roll-out, it would make their day and they would have a little piece of their dream in their system."