Monitoring Rainfall In Orange County, California with GIS Cloud (Case Study)

February 07, 2017
6 min read

Managing Water Resources GIS Cloud in Orange County Use Case
Rainfall and watersheds monitoring can be quite demanding. It includes various tasks and challenges, from having updated information on the amounts of water at any given time, to organizing teams acquiring the data and integrating new online GIS solutions with existing desktop GIS tools.
Read a case study on how Orange County transformed their previously paper-based workflow to a completely digital solution, which not only made their jobs easier and more efficient, but also saved time and money.
Online GIS plays an important role in managing natural resources, environmental monitoring as well as fighting droughts and Watersheds monitoring. Some time ago, we published an interview with Grant Sharp who is the Environmental Monitoring Section Manager with the OC Watersheds Division of OC Public Works in Orange County, California. His main focus is collecting information about the environment and using that information to protect the environment in a better way.

Water shortages in Orange County

As water shortages are a common problem in California during summertime, environmental monitoring plays a crucial role in planning and executing strategies for water conservation, alleviating pollution, and changing the behavior of residents. Some of those strategies include planning volunteer watershed cleanup events as well as informing citizens on the effects of water pollution, resulting in a more sustainable behavior.
In Orange County, who have adopted our solutions in 2013, GIS Cloud helps in monitoring rainfall amounts on a monthly basis. Because of serious droughts in past years, residents of the county had to rely more on the stormwater/rainwater as a resource. The real-time rainfall totals are available for the citizens online. This information was gathered, visualized and organized with the help of GIS Cloud. Let’s see what were the main challenges in setting up the Watersheds Monitoring system in Orange County.

OC Watersheds division needed a better way to collect rainfall data

The main challenge in monitoring rainfall amounts and having a clear overview of the real-time situation in the field was in finding a more efficient way to collect and enter the data necessary for visualization on a map.
The key was in replacing a paper-based workflow with a user-friendly and fast data collection method in the field. So, instead of recording data on a piece of paper and adding it manually in a database in the office, they wanted to have an option for a real-time data collection in the field, where watersheds data, such as data collected on the volunteer watersheds cleanup events, would be added instantly on a map while still in the field.

Challenge of integrating all data in one place

Another important thing was to integrate existing desktop tools with the cloud so that they could share the data locked on individual computers, to collaborate with the entire team, as well as open it for public use.
Also, the system needed to be customized so that the real-time data coming from OC Watersheds Remote Sensing equipment, that collects rainfall and water level data, is pushed on the map in real time. This data needed to be accessible through custom reports showing historical records, that is exportable in different formats.

Online GIS solution for the entire workflow

Orange County Watersheds Department used GIS Cloud Map Editor to visualize existing data on a map, add different layers of data, separate different regions, and adjust symbology. They used GIS Cloud ArcMap Publisher to convert existing data in shapefiles, in only a couple of clicks. This makes integration with desktop GIS fast and simple, preserving all your data and symbology.

Access the map here.
Mobile Data Collection entirely replaced their paper-based workflow, providing a solution for real-time data collection in the field, using smartphones or tablets.
In the words of Grant Sharp:

In terms of being able to collect data from the field, GIS Cloud has provided a major benefit to our organization. It allows us to be more efficient and productive in terms of how we go into the environment and collect the information. We are able to record and document data in real time. It has helped us streamline our workflow and processes. We were able to convert what used to be done largely on paper and can now be done electronically with mobile devices.”


Solution tailored for watershed monitoring and management

Adjusting GIS Cloud’s REST API resulted in a customized solution, where the map was easily adjusted to push the data from over 80 stations that measure water level data throughout the country. Also, this enabled custom reports important for the users who wanted to have an insight into the rainfall data:

Our users are able to pull out charts and graphs of the historical data and export the data in various formats. So we are providing our customers with the current information they need… They have a lot of interest in where it’s raining and so on, and can get that information but also historical data as well.” – Grant Sharp

Also, the important benefit of using GIS Cloud was the simplicity of use as well as the tools that can be used for data analysis.
Summed up by Grant Sharp, these are the main benefits and a recommendation for GIS Cloud as a perfect solution for Watersheds monitoring and management:

“There are several things what makes GIS Cloud unique compared to other providers. First and foremost is the relative ease and simplicity of the platform. It doesn’t require a lot of training, you can literally jump in day one and be able to develop content and collect data from the field.
I would also like to emphasize that while these things are an advantage, I don’t want to understate the fact that you can use GIS Cloud to do powerful analysis on large amounts of data. We have used GIS Cloud for integrating a lot of different databases, data sources and datasets so that we can do powerful analysis by using the tools and features GIS Cloud provides.
It helped us in decision making and how we manage our assets, so that is another thing that sets GIS Cloud apart from other providers. And the ability to integrate GIS Cloud with other desktop solutions has been a tremendous feature when it comes to collaboration throughout our organization.”

Interested in GIS Cloud Solutions for managing water resources? Contact us here.

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