Project Description

Managing seasonal demand with a smart GIS solution

The town of Harwich, Massachusetts, is located on lower Cape Cod along Nantucket Sound. The Harwich Water Department manages a water treatment facility, 180 miles of water main, and more than 1,000 valves. This water system serves the town’s 12,000 year-round residents, plus the summer tourist population, which triples the population during the months of May through September. In an effort to maintain their commitment to responding to water emergencies as quickly as possible while still keeping expenses – and people’s water bills – as low as possible, the town sought a way to convert all of its water records from paper plans, tie cards, and CAD drawings to a single, unified geographic information system (GIS) that would increase operational efficiencies and streamline the process of analyzing broken water mains.

The town had successfully made the transition to GIS, but in order to more effectively leverage its capabilities for operations and maintenance, they engaged Microdesk to develop the GIS into much more interactive reference map by adding new data, creating algorithms to analyze water mains and make all information easier to interpret. The Microdesk application development team created three software tools. The first was a GPS tracking feature and a small portable GPS device that could hook into a laptop and enable users to identify a worker’s location and display it on the water system map. The second was a single-click isolation analysis tool that enables system operators to point and click on a pipe break to analyze the network and figure out which valves need to be closed to isolate the pipe. The third was a call list generator which would automatically generate a list of residents in the vicinity of a water main issue. This data would feed the town’s auto-dialing system that calls each resident and leaves a pre-recorded message.

The solution has enabled the department and emergency crews to respond more quickly to issues such as road washouts or sinkholes, effectively avoiding costly infrastructure damage and better preserving public safety. This is especially critical in a seasonal resort town like Harwich, where costly infrastructure damage could jeopardize tourism and weaken the local economy for years afterward.