In the past, the CWA team looked at information on spreadsheets, with some inaccuracy, and without the ability of visualizing locations of water pipe damages or tracking their change over time. Using GIS empowered CWA Management with visual maps and up-to-date pipe information about length, age, and material. This resulted in a 100% reduction of service time as the new information is accessible anywhere anytime. This is very much appreciated by our end users.
Mauritius Water Authority Uses GIS to Map Assets and Modernize System
In Mauritius, an island nation located off the coast of Africa, the Central Water Authority (CWA) serves nearly 400,000 customers. The goal of the water authority is to ensure a sustainable water supply that supports the economic development of the country. The water authority lacked a standard, centralized database of its distribution network, which consisted of paper-based systems. Maps and technical information had to be processed, printed, and then dispatched by smartphones to different CWA offices around the island.
About 10 years ago, the often outdated paper-based systems and CAD drawings had led to slower processes and department employees were working in silos, which made it difficult to have concise, accurate information in a timely manner. Because information wasn’t being shared between the IT department and the drawing office, gathering data was cumbersome. Additionally, no real-time asset information could be managed to help resolve customer complaints.
The water authority then began to implement geographic information system (GIS) technology across its departments and customer service operations to support real-time data collection.
The full implementation of GIS took years due to the lack of funding and resources available to the CWA. In 1999, a GIS project had been implemented for pipe reticulation, but the acquisition of orthophotos was paused due to contract and financing challenges. Eventually, in 2008, the setbacks with the orthophoto acquisition were resolved, and the CWA could proceed with a complete GIS mapping and database project.
Senior officials at the CWA pushed for implementing GIS in mapping the water distribution system. GIS displays dashboards and maps to make information faster to process for all stakeholders involved in water distribution throughout the country.
"Very few government organizations in Mauritius are using GIS, but we have been able to make rapid progress due to the capabilities in GIS and share information quickly," said Veemul Gopaul, senior technical design officer, drawing office, CWA.
With the new GIS maps, when complaints are logged, an application pinpoints the client's location and sends a message to the regional field maintenance department. In the past, complaints were logged with a series of phone calls and emails, and sometimes inaccurate instructions were given to mobile staff. Now, a single step saves time and effort.
In addition to helping residential customers, the CWA uses GIS to create accurate maps of water asset locations, including the CWA's pipe network and water distribution appurtenances. Currently, 95 percent of the CWA network is mapped, with plans to continue to add data. These maps display boreholes, reservoirs, and impoundments over basemaps of the region. "Due to the ease of having visual information, GIS easily provides visual support in terms of dynamic maps that tell us the behavior of water networks and our customers," said Gopaul.
The addition of GIS to the water authority has made the workflows more efficient in the past 18 months, and other government agencies are noticing.
"Management has appreciated visual maps and pipe information [such as] length, age, and material. [Staff] used to look at this information on spreadsheets, and the information could not be visualized over time or very accurate," said Gopaul.
The creation of the GIS database has allowed CWA to have interactive maps that can be easily edited with additional data layers, and more analysis makes for easier, faster decision-making. In the future, the CWA wants to push its complaint system forward. It was created by people who didn't have a background in GIS but learned how to use the technology, and now the system can be used from dispatch to operations to fix problems faster, which leads to time and cost savings for the water authority.