Business Center

Mapping Our Way to Better Water Quality

by Karl Onsager, Process Improvement Intern
Nov. 17, 2017


The stormwater mapping efforts currently underway at CDOT improve coordination, user experience, emergency response, and maintenance.

CDOT employees Jeremiah Unger, Susie Hagie, Amber Williams, and Jean Cordova are leading efforts to better map CDOT's stormwater infrastructure. They've improved the process of collecting assets and integrating data into future plans. And they understand the importance of improving coordination with local and municipal partners, all to ensure environmental integrity and responsible stewardship.

Demonstrated Need

The summer 2017 semi-truck fire on I-25 highlighted some of the group's challenges. Contaminants from the semi's spilled gasoline and chemicals used to mitigate the fire posed a risk to water quality. And without mapping, locating CDOT's stormwater infrastructure required to review and analysis of existing plans—a process that often takes more than a week.

Collecting Better Data of Existing Infrastructure

In the past, stormwater infrastructure data was incomplete or inaccurate. When data were available, many pipes, inlets, and manholes were simply coded as "culverts," which impacts maintenance and system access.

"You don't know to maintain your infrastructure because you don't know where or what they are," said Unger, environmental administrator at CDOT. CDOT is addressing this issue by using advanced equipment in the field to collect the location, identification and elevation data of each piece of infrastructure.

The team will incorporate GIS data collection into new projects, using survey quality data on stormwater infrastructure, reducing the amount of post-project information collection.

Coordination With Partners through the Colorado Stormwater Council Geographical Information Sharing Initiative

The team is also working to better collaborate with local partners. The Colorado Stormwater Council plays an important role by enabling collaboration, coordination, and data sharing. The comprehensive network allows for better interagency response and analysis for improvement.

The Benefits

  1. Teams can use a comprehensive database of existing infrastructure to save money and proactively maintain it. "Emergency sinkhole repair is far more expensive when a pipe fails than proactively maintaining and lining that pipe," Unger said. Emergency repair can cost more than five times as much than routine maintenance.
  2. By seamlessly integrating GIS data, crews can immediately access data to mitigate contamination during emergency response.

Mapping emphasizes CDOT's commitment to environmental stewardship and community partnership.

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