Gis map of bryson city water system
GIS map of water system

Celebrating GIS in Engineering

Have you ever wondered how cities, organizations, and businesses effectively manage their water, wastewater, and stormwater assets? One powerful tool that is widely used for asset management planning is geographic information systems (GIS). GIS connects data to a map, integrating location data (where things are), with all types of descriptive information (what things are like) via a relational database. Maps are the geographic containers for data and each map can have many types of data layers using spatial location. This data usually has a geographic component — including imagery, features, and basemaps — that are linked to the database. Simply put, GIS is a digital mapping technology that allows users to collect, manage, analyze, and visualize geographic data.


GIS is a relatively new field, starting in the 1960s as computers and early concepts of quantitative and computational geography emerged; however, many of the concepts utilized in GIS span ages of mapmaking history. Today, GIS gives people the ability to solve real-world problems and has evolved into a means for data sharing and collaboration. Each November, we celebrate GIS Day to recognize the importance of GIS in various industries and inspire others to utilize GIS to improve their communities. McGill helps local governments utilize GIS to better manage their water, wastewater, and stormwater systems through asset management planning.

Why Use GIS?

Why is GIS so important?

  • GIS enables asset managers to make informed decisions by providing a visual representation of assets and their locations. This allows for better planning, maintenance, and utilization of assets.
  • GIS enhances asset inventory and tracking capabilities. With GIS, organizations can easily digitize and update asset information, making it easier to monitor, manage, and maintain assets throughout their lifecycle. This not only saves time but also reduces errors and improves data accuracy.
  • GIS helps in analyzing asset performance and optimizing their usage. By integrating data from multiple sources, GIS can provide valuable insights into asset conditions, usage patterns, and potential risks. This allows asset managers to identify areas for improvement, allocate resources efficiently, and prioritize maintenance activities effectively.
  • GIS supports long-term strategic asset planning. By overlaying various datasets — such as population demographics, environmental factors, and infrastructure networks — GIS enables asset managers to evaluate the impact of growth, transportation networks, and data collected by the user, such as previous work orders, and other factors related to asset management planning.

GIS in Water and Wastewater Engineering

GIS is a powerful tool that revolutionizes asset management planning for public utilities. Many funding agencies, as well as regulatory agencies, are now requiring the use of GIS as part of their eligibility or regulatory requirements.

New Free Tool from NC Water Resources Research Institute

To assist cities without in-house GIS capabilities, the NC Water Resources Research Institute is offering a free mapping tool to outline the service area of your water system. Communities are required to provide this map to regulatory agencies. This will be helpful for small communities without GIS support.

How an Engineering Consultant Can Help

An engineering consultant, such as McGill, has the resources and capabilities to help communities develop both asset inventories and asset management plans with GIS that can easily be updated by local government or utility staff without formal GIS training. These inventories and plans can be utilized to assist in future funding applications. For example, McGill is currently working with a number of communities in Tennessee that are required to provide asset management plans for American Rescue Act Plan funding opportunities. By harnessing GIS capabilities, organizations can effectively manage their assets, optimize their usage, and make informed decisions. If you would like to work with McGill on your next asset management plan, contact us or 844.448.4333. View more of our water and wastewater projects.

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