This CAP DAM is not like the others

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Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant Construction and Current

When you hear the word dam, you probably picture a large structure that holds back water. But say the word DAM to a CAP employee and they may picture an actual picture – or maybe even a video. That’s because CAP uses a DAM, or digital asset manager, to store photos and videos that span decades; the oldest pre-date construction of the CAP system and the most recent were shot last week – but it wasn’t always that way.

About eight years ago, a team of employees started looking for a technology-based solution to manage the growing number of photos and videos – called digital assets. Technology had advanced so dramatically over the years – digital cameras are at our fingertips and drones are no longer a novelty — that the number of photos and videos that were being generated by departments across the organization was overwhelming.

Employees from nearly every department were capturing photos and videos — inspectors, engineers, land managers, communications strategists, maintenance professionals –– and finding an effective way to store, manage and retain them was critical.

The team had a lot of work to do. They spent considerable time researching software options, exploring how implementation would work and ensuring the selected software would not only meet the organization’s current needs, but also be able to adapt and change as CAP’s requirements grew. The answer was Open Text Media Manager (OTMM) and approximately six years ago, the process of migrating digital assets into this software began.

New Waddell Dam and Old Waddell Dam
Photo of New Waddell Dam and Old Waddell Dam, 1992
Hayden Rhodes blasting
Hayden Rhodes blasting, 1979

Patrick Villella, IT architect & systems administrator, took the helm as the technical and functional administrator and evangelist of the OTMM. It was a role that required more than simply moving assets.

First a CAP-specific framework for metadata was developed. Accurate and detailed metadata — details such as dates, location, purpose, project, activity, employees featured – is a fundamental component of an effective DAM. CAP could have the best visual digital assets, but if they can’t be found, they are useless. Robust metadata attached to each image ensures that images can easily be located.  

Then came the process of migrating photos and videos, which took years. Today, there are more than 40,000 photos, 6,000 videos and 150 audio files in the DAM. The photos that accompany this story are stored in the DAM and were easily found with a simple search.

Governor signing AZ Groundwater Act
Governor Bruce Babbitt signs the AZ Groundwater Management Act at the Arizona State Capitol on June 12, 1980 (photo courtesy of AMWUA).
Buckskin Mountain Tunnel Outlet construction
Buckskin Mountain Tunnel Outlet construction, 1980

Finally, employees were trained to use the DAM … how to quickly access images by searching keywords, sorting by dates and downloading.

“Using Media Manager to manage our digital asset provides a way to ensure that photos and images of our system are available for future generations,” said Villella.

This technology is more than a digital scrapbook. From drone footage captured during structural and survey inspections to footage captured by underwater rovers and inspection and maintenance photos taken during repair and installations – proper storage and searchability of these assets helps ensure the reliability of the system, supporting our mission of reliably managing and delivering Colorado River water.

CAWCD Board of Directors in the 1980s
CAWCD Board of Directors 1980s
Siphon construction
Siphon construction in the 1980s
Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant Construction
Construction at Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant, 1984