Most municipal governments don’t have a local water source they can access directly to supply their residents and businesses, so, as a result, they are forced to purchase water from surrounding municipalities that do have access or regional utility management agencies who pump it in from outside locations. As the economy continues to struggle, the fees and costs associated with managing a government, including those used to purchase and distribute water, continue to rise. For the City of Des Plaines, IL, which receives its water from the City of Chicago, this rising cost of purchasing water has lead the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department to start examining alternative supply sources to ensure it can adequately supply water with the same amount of funds moving forward.
To assist with reviewing the available alternate water sources, the Public Works and Engineering Department asked the city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department to create a map showing both the source location of the water, as well as proposed distributions systems for supplying the water to the city and its neighbors. While the initial analysis of where the water would come from was done before the map was created, being able to visualize all the proposed sources and their associated system enhancements provided the department with a tool for presenting each supply option to the city council in an engaging and easy-to-understand format that allowed to council to better understand the options available to the city. Without using GIS to design the water source scenario map, discussing the water supply information, while still possible, would have been more time consuming for the department staff to prepare for and, potentially, more difficult for the council members to understand.