Invaluable GIS technology helps make ADWR data visually appealing and understandable

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Invaluable GIS technology helps make complex ADWR data visually appealing and understandable
October 22, 2020

Earlier this week, Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke delivered a videotaped shout-out to all the ADWR divisions that use GIS technology in presentations.

It was a pretty lengthy speech. Like most science-oriented State agencies, ADWR is finding more and more uses for “geographic information system” technology, widely known as GIS, to help organize layers of complex data into visually digestible maps and 3D images.

Director Buschatzke taped his address for the Arizona Geographic Information Council’s  annual symposium and workshops. The AGIC Education & Training Symposium  – often held in Prescott, but this year held virtually – is one of Arizona’s top forums for the exchange of geographic information and geographic information technology issues and coordination efforts.

AGIC, in fact, exists to promote the use of GIS and related technologies to address problems, develop plans, and manage the natural, economic and infrastructure resources of Arizona.

“ADWR personnel use GIS day in and day out to solve complex hydrological and water resources related problems,” said Director Buschatzke to the AGIC audience.

“GIS plays a critical role across numerous divisions, including groundwater modeling, field data collection, adjudications, permitting, and Wells data collection,” he said.

“It is not an overstatement to say that GIS is the backbone for ADWR’s data analysis and investigations of groundwater conditions throughout the State.”

ADWR is a leader in ground-subsidence monitoring, maintaining the largest state-run program in the nation using satellite Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data.

In 2018, the Department published an ArcGIS Story Map  depicting land subsidence in the Willcox Groundwater Basin, where ADWR had recently completed work on a comprehensive groundwater-flow model.

Focusing on the prevalence of land subsidence in the Willcox Basin, the story map uses interactive imagery as a complement to textual descriptions of the area’s subsidence issues. Together, they literally paint a clear picture of the dramatic subsidence issues facing the region.

The Department’s Active Management Area division uses the technology in its public process. During the 5th management plan public process, GIS technology was used to combine spatial and annual report data. That data was used to analyze a current management plan conservation program and inform potential modifications for the fifth management plan.

GIS also helps the AMA division present spatial data.

It “allows the public to relate to data in a way that spreadsheets or graphs don't allow,” said Kyle Miller, the Department AMA Director.

“The AMA section has developed and published an Interactive Drought Dashboard that displays drought conditions temporally and spatially at county resolution,” said Miller. 

“The public can use the dashboard to examine drought trends over time or to simply determine how much of their county is experiencing drought conditions. The development of a GIS-based Agricultural Data Dashboard is ongoing which will highlight both geographic and water-use characteristics of agriculture in the Active Management Areas.”

The AMA section also maintains an Irrigation Grandfathered Right map that allows the public to search for groundwater rights by address, parcel or right number. Similarly, its website features a Community Water System map that enables customers to determine their municipal water provider. These tools are especially useful for prospective buyers who often want to know as much about a parcel as possible before completing the purchase.

ADWR’s Community Water Systems division used GIS to design an interactive map that helped answer basic questions from water users. Questions like: Who is my water provider? Where can I reach them? What public records does my provider have on file that I can access? The technology helps put answers like those and more on the public’s fingertips.

ADWR’s Groundwater Site Inventory, or “GWSI,” database and all of its data are easily accessible through ADWR’s website as an interactive map.

The map provides critical information about each individual well: some of this data is the depth-to-water measurements, well construction, groundwater hydrographs, well-use, recent photographs, and pump type.

The GWSI database is used by water professionals and the public throughout Arizona to understand groundwater conditions for a particular area.

Helping provide the public with easy access to otherwise complex data is one of the most exciting features of GIS. ADWR takes great pride in making as much GIS-ready data freely available on ADWR’s website through interactive mapping, imagery, and geographic analysis services.