Three Uses of Cloud GIS for Watersheds

In preparation to our next’s week webinar, GIS for Water Resource and Watersheds Management, we decided to highlight some of the potential uses of GIS Cloud for Watersheds.

Watershed management is one of those topics that come up in the public discourse usually in case of natural occurrences and disasters such as floods, droughts, problems with a water supply or the infrastructure.

Recent problems with the Oroville Dam in California, where the heavy rain was a cause for concern in case of a structure collapse that could lead to a severe flooding  indicate that the public isn’t always aware of the parts of infrastructure crucial for both their safety and the economy.

Nevertheless, watershed and environmental experts, among others, monitor watersheds and water infrastructure on a regular basis. A very common and useful tool for managing and monitoring watersheds is GIS.  There are various uses of GIS in the Watershed management, most obvious being the spatial visualization which is a very important element of understanding the environment, analyzing and planning. Since GIS was first introduced in the hydrology and watersheds management, a lot has changed.


Instead of locking a large amount of data in spatial formats on our desktop computers, nowadays we can monitor and update situation in real time. This also means that a lot of people can access maps, use them to inform themselves, provide help or plan for water conservation and other activities. The essential shift that happened was a transition from desktop to cloud GIS solutions, that enabled real-time collaboration between various stakeholders. The use of web and mobile GIS extends from data collection, to visualization, analysis and sharing data with colleagues and the public.

Let’s go through just a few of the potential uses of Cloud GIS for watersheds and water resource management:


Environmental Monitoring and Field Data Collection

Web maps are very important for the environmental monitoring because they are easily accessed by anyone interested in an insight into the real-time situation on the field. In case of, for example, planning a cleanup event for the local community, Mobile Data Collection can save a lot of time and increase efficiency when coordinating with volunteers.

Orange County, California had one such event, where cloud GIS proved itself as a perfect tool for optimizing the effectiveness of volunteer cleanups. For more info about how it was done, click here.
Risk Management
In the case of droughts, floods and other catastrophic events, having an insight into spatial visualizations can play a crucial role in saving time and lives as well as informing citizens and volunteers.

One such example is the Map of the Flood Risk Probability in Croatia, where the citizens can get the info about the risk of floods in their local area together with the location of the crucial parts of the infrastructure (hospitals, education facilities…), types of land etc.
Informing and Engaging citizens and local businesses
Another successful example of utilizing web GIS for the purpose of sharing data with the public and engaging local community comes from Orange County, California. They used GIS Cloud for monitoring rainfall and engaging citizens into an initiative to save water and to learn how to use it more sustainably.

To learn more, check out the use case, or an interview with Sharp Grant from the Orange County Watersheds Department.


Bringing it All Together
The value of real-time insight and collaboration on spatial data in the context of watersheds and water resource management can not be overemphasized. Watershed and water resources management aim to monitor, plan, implement and improve various processes connected to the water supply and quality, drainage, stormwater, water rights and the use of watersheds and water resources of a particular area. The stakeholders included in these processes are local government and land use agencies, surveyors, environmental experts, citizens, landowners and businesses.

Web GIS enables all of them to collaborate and make a use of spatial data in a way it was not possible before. It improves not only decision-making and field collaboration in cases of natural disasters, but also every step of the workflow in watersheds management, from data collection to sharing the info with the public, and the automation of the entire process.


Interested in GIS for Watershed and Water Resource Management? Join our webinar scheduled for 23 of February. Register here.