GIS maps beneficial for city data, workflow

Photos by Jacob Wiegand/The Herald
Nick Nowakowski, a line crew operator for Jasper Wastewater, removed a manhole cover before utilizing GIS (geographic information systems) technology on an iPad to record the depth and location of manholes at the Trinity Crossing subdivision Wednesday morning in Jasper. The information Nowakowski collects about the manholes is entered into the system and is more easily accessible, as opposed to using paper maps, for future use.


JASPER — When property owners come into Wastewater Manager Ed Hollinden’s office wanting to tie into the city’s sewer lines, he can pull up their land on an online map and tell them exactly where the lines are on their property.

When there’s a gas or water leak, city crews can pull up the exact locations of relevant valves on their smartphones or iPads on-site to quickly turn off the supply.

When a contaminant enters the stormwater system, city officials can drop a pin where the substance was found and trace the water flow to find the source of the contaminant and the path it will take as it goes through the pipes.

All of this is possible thanks to geographic information systems, or GIS, technology and the maps GIS Technician Jeff Warren creates from his office in City Hall. Once created, anyone with access to the city’s GIS system can view from anywhere the maps that contain the data that was once kept on thousands of sheets of paper in thick, three-ring binders.

“Now we’ve got guys out with phones and tablets (rather than the binders),” Warren said.

GIS maps contain several layers that show different data. To create a map, Warren combines the layers to create a map with the desired data. One layer, for example, contains Jasper’s streets. Another layer contains Jasper’s topographic information, and a third layer contains wastewater lines color-coded to identify their size. Warren can also add additional data to the map, such as the depth and age of an individual pipe or manhole.

To access that data, linemen in the field need only select a pipe on their phone or tablet.

Nowakowski utilized GIS (geographic information systems) technology on an iPad to record the depth and location of manholes at Trinity Crossing subdivision Wednesday morning in Jasper.

The maps save the city time and money because crews can access information on-site that they used to have to return to their offices to access on paper maps and in binders that weren’t always up-to-date.

“This way, we’re not wasting our resources,” Warren said of using GIS.

Jasper began creating its GIS maps in 1999 and has since implemented the technology in several departments. The utility, engineering, planning and development, and street departments all use GIS technology daily. Recently, for example, the street department created a map to show the results of a street sign reflectivity test. The map shows each street sign the city is responsible for as a color-coded dot. The color tells how the sign scored on the test. From there, street department staff can click on a dot to see the sign’s exact location, what kind of sign it is and the details of its reflectivity test. Before GIS, all that data would have been stored in a binder.

Warren doesn’t only create maps for city staff. Several GIS tools are available to the public via the city’s website, There, citizens can look at a map to find out what trash route they’re on, what kind of zone their property is in and what council district they live in. There is also a parking map that shows where drivers can find different types of parking: all-day, two-hour or permit-only. Warren also created a story map that shows all the developments currently underway in Jasper.

“Story maps have been big lately,” Warren said. “(They’re) a way to get people interested.”

The county, Ferdinand and Huntingburg also use GIS, but the technology isn’t just for governments. Anytime people use their phones to find a restaurant or gas station near them, they use GIS. Looking up directions online uses GIS, too.

“You use GIS every day,” Warren said. “You just don’t know it.”

More on