The Growing Use of GIS in the Water Industry

    The Geographic Information System (GIS) is trending. It is nowadays used in almost every industry due to its growing functionality and major role in identifying and processing problems. It is considered to be important for the collection, storage, analysis, modeling, and display of multi-disciplinary data from various sources, including remote-sensing imaging, digital maps, field sampling, and survey information. The fact that this technology offers the combined power of geography and information systems makes it an ideal tool for effective management infrastructure especially when it comes to the water industry.

    “GIS is being used both for industrial progress and for the sustainable development of resource management considering its great value to planners and policy makers”

    The use of GIS applications for the water industry started evolving in the late 1980s and in the 1990s, it was used specifically for mapping, modeling, managing facilities and developing programs, operations and maintenance plans. Few years later, GIS was widely used in the studies of drinking water considering its importance in identifying the main problems of the water infrastructure as well as recommending solutions, scheduling and recording maintenance activities. As per The World Bank, advances in GIS technology become especially important when dealing with complex river basins whose climate, soils, and land use/ land cover distributions vary significantly with space. GIS technology is equally important in addressing a basin being used and managed by multiple actors. In this case, to facilitate optimal joint resources management and development decisions, one needs to spatially identify the sources and sinks of water and associated pollutants. Moreover, the effects of spatial factors such as climatic conditions or soil type, and temporal factors such as seasonal and yearly changes in climatic conditions, can be evaluated with high resolution using GIS. Following the fact that the water resources worldwide are being altered due to changes in climate, population, economic development and environmental considerations, preserving the world water resources has become challenging. In addition to that, water scarcer and the degradation of water supplies may threaten the development activities and health of people in many parts of the world which is why many countries are adopting the GIS technology in their process of fighting the water deficiency or crisis they might face in the future. According to Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, the MENA region is considered one of the most water-scarce region of the world, one of the major challenges in the MENA countries today, is to increase agricultural production to sustain the fast growing population. Thus, the North Africa and Middle Eastern countries, are mainly leaning on the GIS technology in the present time, to better manage and improve their changing societies, according to a study conducted by ESRI. In fact, GIS is being used both for industrial progress and for the sustainable development of resource management considering its great value to planners and policy makers in order to maintain a balance of modernization and tradition as a core technology for building a better future for the Middle East and North Africa region. GIS enables its users to intelligently manage and manipulate their geographic data. Business and government analysts use GIS to review patterns and processes of projects. Administrators and managers integrate spatial information into daily routines, operations analysis, and interdepartmental work flows. Policy makers are in a position to create the foundation for ensuring the longevity of thriving communities, commerce, and government. By using GIS for spatial analysis and perspective, they are able to understand better the past, present, and future environments they may influence. Whether interdepartmental, interagency, or international, GIS enterprise solutions open a world of possibilities. Forward thinking government agencies and private industries have found GIS essential for the management of utilities, law enforcement, health care, road services, agriculture, water resources, petroleum and pipeline facilities, mining, and much more. But what remains an obstacle is the lack of skilled workforce and inadequate planning for GIS implementation in developing countries as well as the expensive GIS software.
    AWW Staff