Citizens for Water and others have raised the question, “If El Dorado County experiences a major disaster, what is our response plan?” Part of that plan would involve protecting our water quality and delivery systems.
On Oct. 10, the El Dorado County Water Agency received a presentation on the status of Georgetown Divide Public Utility District‘s current level of mapping its system for its own management and for emergency responders. GDPUD Assistant Operations Manager Kelly Shively described the capability of the district’s geographical information system (GIS) and plans for improving it.
All five Water Agency directors were present: Chairman Ron Briggs, Supervisor Jack Sweeney, Supervisor Ray Nutting, Richard Englefield of Grizzly Flat CSD; James Jones of the South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District.
A GIS is constructed by taking different types of information on the ground; for example, location of residential water connections or fire hydrants, with relevant information, and integrating all the data into one easily accessible system.
El Dorado County created a GIS in the early 1990s in the Surveyor’s Office. Originally, it mapped all the parcels in the county, then the roads, and has since expanded. Aerial photographs were added later. Now the Surveyor’s Office is developing the tabular data that links to each point on the map. A click on a geographic point will bring up all the information about that land parcel.
Shively said the first electronic map of GDPUD’s irrigation system was created in electronic Computer-Aided Drafting files in 2002. GPS units were used to define the irrigation canals, but satellite coverage was not as good as now. GeoIT Consultants converted those files into a GIS.
Upgrades to GDPUD’s GIS were made starting in April with a $25,000 cost-sharing grant from the El Dorado County Water Agency. The district serves an area of 72,000 acres between the South and Middle forks of the American River. Water from Pilot Creek flows into Stumpy Meadows Reservoir at 4,265 feet elevation. From Stumpy Meadows, water flows down to Pilot Hill at 1,165 feet elevation. Along the way, it serves irrigation, domestic and business customers in Georgetown, Greenwood, Cool, Garden Valley, Kelsey and Coloma. It also provides some hydroelectric power.
GDPUD rented GPS units and collected geodata for water meters, irrigation service points, sewer manholes, community leach field lines and pressure-reducing stations. “Current GPS capabilities are now quite good, even in hilly, remote, heavily-wooded terrain,” said Shively.
“The system has increased the ability to manage and operate the district. We can use smart phones or tablets in the field or at home, and get the information at any time of day or night,” he said. “It also facilitates inventory control.”
“With the GIS, the district is able to provide quicker customer service. We can help customers locate their water meters without sending someone to their home or place of business,” said Shively.
Using the GIS in emergency situations will give the district the ability to identify customers who would be potentially affected. It may be useful as an interface to an automated “calling tree” in the future.
Coordination among agencies during a disaster is a challenge. The GIS enhances communications with emergency services by directing them to locations, access routes, hydrants and critical facilities such as storage reservoirs.
Shively said the potential usefulness of the GIS can be expanded. GDPUD is responsible for repairing the fire hydrants. There are 581 hydrants in three fire districts, he explained. If a hydrant goes out of service, someone has to track down the manufacturer and model. “We can have that information linked to each hydrant,” he said. Other data the district would like to add to the system are mainline valves, septic tanks connected to community sewer system, and as-built information available from line extension agreements.
Some of the line work needs refinement to more accurately reflect correct locations.
As land parcels are created and sold, it is important that GDPUD receives that information from the county. There is an annual cost to the updates.
Shively ended his presentation by thanking the El Dorado County Water Agency board and staff for their assistance with developing the GIS database.
Director Sweeney urged GDPUD to use actual GPS devices rather than handheld. “Handheld are only accurate plus or minus 10 meters,” he said. He also recommended that all the districts using GIS “get on a more global system.” They should be required to tie with the county GIS, he said.
Director Nutting inquired about the cost-effectiveness of GDPUD’s GIS. Shively responded that it saves many employee hours that no longer require going out to the field or to customers’ locations, and time wasted searching for sites in the field.
Susan Rayburn, District 4 appointee to the county Local Disaster Council, attended the meeting with Harry Dunlop, former El Dorado Irrigation District general manager, and Kathy Otermat, Georgetown Divide Public Utility District director. Rayburn is interested in linking with the district’s GIS for disaster preparedness and response. El Dorado County Water Agency General Manager Dave Eggerton suggested that Rayburn and her associates work with the Water Agency as technical advisors.
In a telephone interview following the meeting, Eggerton said he will assemble the Information Technology staff from the county water districts to develop an integrated system.