Geographic Information System

Mapping the Path to Protection

by Megan Keegan and Catherine Magliocchetti

DWMAPS screen shot of Philadelphia area, depicting crude oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids, natural gas, and petroleum product pipelines; overlayed against a backdrop of drinking water sources.

DWMAPS screen shot of Philadelphia area, depicting crude oil, hydrocarbon gas liquids, natural gas, and petroleum product pipelines; overlaid against a backdrop of drinking water sources.

In our work, we use geographic information systems (more commonly known as GIS) to create maps that help us make timely decisions and efficiently target resources for protecting the Region’s waterways.

However, GIS technologies can be time-consuming and cumbersome to learn, and for many environmental organizations GIS mapping has become a language all its own. And as with a language, if you don’t use it, you lose it because it’s difficult to remain fluent without using it on a regular basis.

Now there is an alternative that doesn’t require special software or on-going training. EPA’s new tool, the Drinking Water Mapping Application to Protect Source Waters (DWMAPS) harnesses the mapping power of GIS programs in a user-friendly interface, right in your internet browser!  DWMAPs equips local watershed groups, water utilities, state and federal regulators, and others with a wider variety of water resource datasets. For a better understanding of drinking water resources, users can easily navigate their way to answering all kinds of questions about public water systems, potential sources of contamination, or how to get involved in local drinking water protection efforts.

EPA will use this tool to better protect sources of drinking water by working with states, basin commissions, and collaborative partnerships, such as the River Alert Information Network (RAIN). The Network has high hopes for use of DWMAPS in the future.  RAIN’s program coordinator, Bryce Aaronson, recently told us that “ the ability to shift through the diverse layers detailing watersheds, water sources, and the great litany of possible points of contamination complements the growing early warning spill detection system that RAIN and our water utility partners use to protect the region’s source water.”

Find more information, including a complete user’s guide, on the DWMAPS website. And keep an eye out for instructional videos, webinars, and more from EPA. In the meantime, give DWMAPS a try to learn more about the source of your drinking water and to find water protection groups in your area.

About the authors: Meg Keegan and Cathy Magliocchetti work with diverse drinking water partnerships in the Source Water Protection program. Outside of work, Meg loves to scuba dive tropical locales and Cathy enjoys skiing.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Saving the Rainforest…with Data

By Betty Kreakie, Ph.D

EPA's Betty Kreakie in Suriname

EPA’s Betty Kreakie, Ph.D in Suriname.

Managing big data is difficult.

Well, let me rephrase that slightly: Managing high-quality big environmental data is really, really difficult.

But, you may ask, if it is so difficult, why bother?  Because if you are able to successfully generate and manage high-quality environmental data in a Geographic Information System (GIS), you can save the rainforest.  And then… the world!

This was the sales pitch I used during my Embassy Science Fellowship in Paramaribo, Suriname.  Suriname is a small country located just north of Brazil.  The goal of my three month fellowship was to assist the Ministerie van Ruimtelijke Ordening, Grond en Bosbeheer (RGB) (Ministry of Physical Planning, Land and Forestry Management) with the development of a spatial data management plan.  RGB is a relatively new ministry (founded in 2005) and faces the same daunting concerns as many other land management agencies, such as limited resources and high workloads.  Incorporating new data management concepts into an established, busy agency is challenging.  And for a country that is still 80% pristine rainforest, environmental data management will be critical for sustaining growth while preserving natural resources.

My efforts focused on three main areas to build a strong data management foundation: strategic data planning, logistics and organization, and implementing new softwares/technologies.  First, strategic data planning helps ensure that data collection is in line with specific management goals and the agency’s mission.  Second, having logistical protocols in place that explicitly state how data are collected and processed increases efficiency and reduces confusion.  And finally, I introduced some new cost-effective software that would help streamline data processing and increase quality control.

To those who attended my workshops, this material was not immediately compelling.  For some reason, people do not find data management beguiling.  And this is where my sales pitch came into play.  Building a high-quality database of environmental information in Suriname will allow land managers to preserve their amazing natural resources while still allowing for development opportunities.

With big environmental data, Suriname can achieve true sustainable development while preserving one of the world’s few last intact rainforests.

About the AuthorBetty Kreakie, Ph.D., is a research ecologist for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development in Narragansett, Rhode Island.  Her work focuses on the development of spatially explicit, landscape level models that predict how biological populations and communities will respond to anthropogenic influences such as nutrient and contaminant inputs, climate change, and habitat conversion.

Editor’s Note: The Embassy Science Fellows is a partnership between U.S. federal technical agencies and the Department of State to provide scientific and engineering staff to serve in short-term assignments in U.S. posts abroad. The goal of the program is to provide expertise in science, mathematics, and engineering to support the work of embassies, consulates, and missions of the State Department while providing international experience to EPA staff.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.