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 Are You Updating Your Utility GIS Data?
By Chris Akin, GISP U President, Paratum Solutions
tilities are critical infrastructure for today’s society. They supply water to our homes, funnel wastewater
and sewage away to be treated, distribute oil and gas across vast distances, and supply the electric energy we need just to keep the lights on, and keep the Internet streaming to us so we can watch the next episode of “Forged in Fire” on Netflix.
Those utilities are buried in the ground during construction and all too often are forgotten about until it’s too late. Exact utility locations can quickly get lost over time until an excavator with a backhoe or just a new homeowner driving in
a post to build a fence, unfortunately, discovers the line the hard way.
According to the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), up to
10,000 gallons of water can be lost
in just a few hours when a standard
half-inch pipe breaks. A single gas
line hit causes a service disruption to entire neighborhoods or communities. Damaged sewer lines release raw sewage and foul smells, facilitate mold and bacterial growth, and may have more severe consequences such as foundation cracking and settlement
or even sinkholes. A slight cut could sever a fiber line rendering the internet to nearly every monitor, sensor, and medical device in a hospital completely cut off. And I might also not ever find out who made the best broadsword!
Utility companies have turned to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to better centralize, document, and refine the location of their underground utility infrastructure. A GIS makes a company’s data centralized, shareable, and accessible, meaning everyone across an organization has access to authoritative, accurate information at all times, whether in the office or in the
field. Accurate utility GIS information can then be given to Texas811 to improve an organization’s data in 811’s “call before you dig” system. The data can also be shared with contractors, line locators, and other key stakeholders, thereby ensuring a common operating picture of the site’s utility network before any digging or construction begins.
Utility GIS data is only accurate if
there are standards and procedures
in place to ensure the data is built correctly, updated regularly, and reflects the actual as-built utility information. Utility owners need to focus on three key time frames for ensuring accurate utility information:
1. When new utilities are built or acquired;
2. When utility locations changes or are identified; and
  2024, Issue 1 Texas811 • 17

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