New GIS Technologies Advance Water Resources Management

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The use of GIS smartphone applications reduced the Missouri River flood disaster in 2011. New geospatial technologies are now critical to managing water resources according to national experts featured at AWRA’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Water Resources Conference held this March. Since every watershed is different, GIS data enables professionals to understand the difference and manage their changes accordingly.

Colonel Robert Ruch of the Army Corps of Engineers is recognized by Jack Hampson.

The GIS challenge is now one of leadership: to deploy and use this technology to its fullest benefit for communities.

During his keynote address at AWRA’s GIS and Water Resources Conference on March 26, Colonel Robert Ruch, commander of the Omaha District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, highlighted the use of new GIS smartphone applications in sharing critical technical information among experts and improving the allocation of engineering resources during the record Missouri River floods in 2011. “It made all the difference,” he said. Additionally, Ruch credited new LiDAR technology with helping engineers compute with confidence the arrival time of flood waters in order to help save the City of Hamburg, Iowa.

“Geospatial technologies have reached a tipping point,” stated Conference Chair, Jack Hampson of Atkins Engineering and Design Consultants. “Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, we now have a flood of new resources ranging from map-driven communication with the public to collaboration on complex water-management challenges among a full range of professionals and stakeholders. The GIS challenge is now one of leadership: to deploy and use this technology to its fullest benefit for communities.”

In a plenary panel that followed Colonel Ruch’s presentation, leaders from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Corps of Engineers joined the director of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science to discuss using other new technologies such as cloud-based data catalogues and web services.

In recognition for exemplary contributions to water resources data and information systems, Jeffry D. Simley of USGS was awarded AWRA’s prestigious David R. Maidment Award for his stewardship of the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), a vital digital foundation for water resources planning and analyses in support of the nation’s water resources.

American Water Resources Association (AWRA) has been a proponent of using a multidisciplined approach for gathering and assessing data for managing water resources since its establishment in 1964.

“Truly understanding any watershed requires data from a wide range of sources. The one thing all these data share is location, or a geospatial component. Every watershed is different: there’s no cookie cutter approach for balancing flood risk, water-supply needs, water quality and quality of life. This gathering of experts from across the country made that exceptionally clear” according to Hampson. “Geospatial technologies are becoming more widely used, powerful and cost effective as the data itself is growing in reliability and accessibility.”

According to Conference Program Coordinator, Sandra Fox of Saint John River Waste Water Management District, “Innovative approaches in using geospatial data span the whole range of water resources challenges. AWRA’s program explored how these new technologies can help water resources managers and policy makers better address the water-related challenges we face now and in the future.”

AWRA’s next GIS conference scheduled for 2014 will be chaired by Robert M. Wallace, Ph.D., P.E., Chief, Computational Science and Engineering Division, US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, US Army Corps of Engineers.

For more information about AWRA, this conference series, or Geospatial Technologies and Water Resources, please contact Mary Ashton, mary(at)awra(dot)org, (540) 687-8390.

ABOUT AWRA: The American Water Resources Association is dedicated to the advancement of water resources management, research, and education and a balanced approach towards solving water resources challenges. AWRA’s membership is comprised of professionals who share a common interest in working and learning across a wide range of multidisciplines focused on water resources policy, practice, and academic pursuits. Members include engineers, foresters, biologists, hydrologists, geologists, chemists, ecologists, GIS professionals, geographers, planners, soil scientists, economists, attorneys, planners, educators, students, community leaders and policy makers.

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