by Dr. Michelle Hallack and Mallory Graves
Water resources planning and management has become a challenging task. Project applications are diverse and commonly complex. One tool that aids to overcome their complexity is the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). With GIS, we can explore connections, linkages, and relationships between multiple datasets. GIS enables users to compile, organize, and manipulate spatial data layers necessary for performing complex tasks and analyses.
GIS applications in water resources ranges from land use/urban growth studies to distributed hydrological modeling using an integrated approach of remote sensing and GIS. Inputs to hydrological modeling start with the use of a Digital Elevation Model to delineate a drainage network and delimit sub-basins. Land uses, slope and soil type datasets are useful to obtain homogeneous hydrologic response units for various modeling applications such as storm water management, climate change impact scenarios, among others.
Flood Risk Control and Delineation
Other important applications include hydraulic analysis to find zones under flood risk that need to be considered in watershed management plans. In addition, using satellite data and GIS can be useful for wetland delineation, quantifying the condition of wetlands, inventory, mapping and change analysis at local and regional scales. GIS is also an important key when compiling data on water resources projects distribution, extent and condition in a certain region.
3D Applications with LiDAR
3D-data models are being utilized for detailed basin delineation, land cover classification, runoff calculation, flood zone determination, and drainage planning for construction projects (to name a few). LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data uses special light pulses to collect much larger elevation points than other sensors, allowing for a nearly seamless canvas of continuous elevation values which can be classified and rendered according to their land cover value. With LiDAR data, identifying “hidden” hydraulic features gives us a comprehensive look at existing and historic conditions for an area of interest.
GIS for Watershed Planning and BMP Tracking
Integrated entirely within these analyses is the development of local/regional capacity to plan and assume such analyses and to relate the products to water resources planning and management. Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) and Watershed Management Plans in Southern California are becoming common requirements for municipalities and agencies in regional efforts to eliminate illicit storm water discharges into open waterways, ensure compliance with TMDLs, and monitor BMPs using GIS tools and asset inventory logic. The inclusion of GIS as a BMP management tool and effectiveness gauge implies that GIS is not simply a mapping product, but a means of visualizing, tracking, and applying meaningful metrics for evaluating efforts for storm water management.
Applications of GIS for water resources management and planning present a myriad of opportunities to address critical issues in water studies and analysis. Contact Alta Environmental and our GIS team to work with you to develop the data, tools, analysis and high-quality mapping products for your project needs.
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