Community and collaboration focus for GIS forum

Share this post


You probably know that using geographic information systems – also known as GIS – is common in American households. GIS is used to find the closest gas station, track your latest Amazon order, ask your electronic assistant a question, and even to check the weather. What you may not know is that GIS is also an incredibly important tool that is used to manage Arizona’s water supply.

Need to know about Arizona’s watersheds and groundwater basins? Want to identify outdoor water use?  Track rainfall within the state? GIS can help!

Simply put, GIS is a system that creates, manages, analyzes, and maps all types of data. That may make you wonder where all that data comes from. Let’s just say that not all GIS data comes from Google Earth — not to mention that the data used to manage water are different than the data needed to get directions to the water park.

There are countless numbers of GIS professionals in the state who work tirelessly to collect, analyze and model water data. Three water agencies – CAP, Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) – recognized that community and collaboration are critical to their success and created an annual GIS Forum. It is an opportunity for GIS analysts, data scientists, and developers from the three organizations to make connections, share stories on how they use GIS to solve business problems and answer questions for managing Arizona’s water resources.

Glenn Emanuel, CAP’s GIS program administrator, said the April forum was the second annual event and the first hosted by CAP. Nearly 100 professionals attended, both virtually and in person.

“Attendees weren’t all people who do GIS all day,’” said Emanuel. “For some, their job is planning or developing, but all utilize GIS software heavily.”

The event, planned by representatives from the three organizations, kicked off with three guest speakers that addressed issues relevant to the entire group.

  • Jenna Leveille, deputy state cartographer, and Kasey Green, AZGeo data curator, provided an overview of AZGeo, Arizona’s official state geospatial clearinghouse, including resources available and collaboration use cases.
  • Cynthia Ritmiller, national map liaison with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), provided information on the 3D Hydrography Program (3DHP), which provides foundational digital geospatial surface water data.
  • Susan Craig, ASU Global Institute of Sustainability & Innovation, and Sarah Porter, Kyl Center, presented an overview of the Arizona Water Innovation Initiative (AWII) and the pivotal role of collaboration.

Karen Fisher, CAP’s senior GIS analyst, was on the planning committee and said the morning sessions were a great way to kick off the day.

“The morning sessions all had a theme of community and collaboration,” said Fisher. “Without collaboration, none of the three applications they presented can exist.”

The afternoon sessions provided an opportunity for participants to break into focus groups that delved into areas in which they more specifically work: remote sensing, water resource analysis & climate change, data sharing, coding, and land survey & real estate. Each group was led by expert representatives from each of the three organizations.

Emanuel has 30 years in GIS, including 16 years at CAP, and said this forum is an incredible opportunity to connect with professionals who work in all areas of GIS and dig deeper into projects they are working on and experiences they have.

“I have a lot of GIS knowledge, but in reality, I know maybe 60% of the GIS field because it’s an ever-emerging technology. You could study it all the time and still not have a full understanding of the field,” said Emanuel. “When people ask if something can be done and I’m not sure how to do it, it’s great to be able to reach out to someone and have them say, ‘I have an answer and I can help.’”

Icon Public Trust

KRA: Public Trust, Partnerships & Leadership

Earning and preserving public trust, building and maintaining partnerships, and providing informed water management leadership

Learn more about CAP’s eight Key Result Areas (KRAs)