Utility mapping is a critical function of any municipal GIS system to help support the daily workflows of various departments, including Public Works and Engineering. While most communities are only responsible for maintaining water and sewer utility systems, the Village of Winnetka includes an electric system as a component of their standard utility maintenance. By maintaining this complex system in GIS, the department has helped to streamline their electric system inventory and improve the efficiency of both the field crews and the office staff in locating system components.
The first step in developing the village electric system in GIS was to gather the source data that would be used to build the electric network. These sources included paper CAD maps, excel spreadsheets, and even paper note cards containing various pieces of information related to system features. The primary source for getting the basic geometry of the system created in GIS was the paper CAD maps. While these maps primarily display interpretative drawings of the actual locations of electric wires and system components, they provided the basic foundation for the development of the GIS data. These maps also provided basic attributes for each feature, including circuit, phase, and voltage information, among others.
Another valuable source of information used to create the GIS electric system was the staff of the Winnetka Water and Electric department. Often the CAD maps and other data sources were out of date or incorrect based on a variety of factors and needed to be supplemented with “on-the-ground” knowledge of the system in the field. The information obtained from the department staff helped to fill in any gaps left by the paper and electronic sources and to refine the coarse accuracy of the CAD drawings to make the GIS data more spatially accurate. Without this additional knowledge, the initial development of the GIS electric data would have been much more difficult and resulted in a less reliable product.
While creating the electric system data in GIS proved to be a challenging component of the overall project, the most difficult aspect was getting the CAD-centric field and office staff of the department to accept using a new system to view their electric information. While the staff was happy to supply their expertise to the development of the data, they were accustom to using the old data formats and were reluctant to accept the new GIS data as their primary mapping tool. However, over time, the improved accuracy and reliability of the GIS data has helped to slowly transition the department to using GIS products. While the CAD maps and other data sources have not been completely abandoned as a source of information, the department has started to accept the use of GIS as an efficient solution for mapping the Village’s complex electric system and maintaining its numerous system attributes.