Nationwide GIS Becomes Instrumental in Drainage Management

Nationwide GIS Becomes Instrumental in Drainage Management

By Jim Baumann, Centre for GIS, State of Qatar, and Shafik Jiwani, Drainage Divison, State of Qatar

The arid, rocky plains of Qatar, a tiny peninsular country on the Arabian Gulf, harbor a complex drainage and sewage system managed by the world`s first nationwide GIS.

Less than seven years ago, however, the water/waste-water system was managed by a large staff duplicating efforts because management was not centralized. Several projects had been neglected on a complex drainage system which included 800 km of sewer pipelines, 160 km of treated effluent mains and 26 km of surface-ground-water pipes, as well as the requisite pumping stations, water towers and treatment works. The country`s leaders sought to establish a comprehensive method of managing the information related to the development and maintenance of its infrastructure.

In 1988, H.gif>. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the country`s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture, saw, for the first time, a demonstration of GIS technology and immediately recognized its potential as the foundation technology for information management in Qatar. He convinced other members of the government of his vision and the National GIS Steering Committee and Centre for GIS (CGIS) were subsequently created by Qatar`s Cabinet of Ministers in 1990. This support at the national level has made Qatar the world`s first country to implement a nationwide GIS.

CGIS is responsible for establishing and maintaining national standards and procedures for GIS implementation in the State of Qatar, including the development and maintenance of the country`s on-line basemap. In addition, it provides GIS training, product development and other various support services for Qatar`s government and private GIS and mapping agencies.

The country`s GIS activities are sanctioned by the Cabinet of Ministers, giving CGIS the authority to specify hardware and software products to maximize ease of use, minimize the learning curve, and maintain easy compatibility among the agencies using the system. It also established a national standard for the collection, categorization and distribution of GIS data.

Component standards adopted by CGIS include ARC/INFO and ArcView from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), ORACLE from the Oracle Corp. and hardware from the Digital Equipment Corp.

CGIS approached Qatar`s GIS network as if the entire country was a single organization. So far, 10 of the country`s 14 ministries have adopted GIS as part of their information management strategies and the remaining four ministries have implementation under way. Mohamed Al Hajri, Drainage Division head, remarked, “The information is at your fingertips just waiting to be used.”

A dedicated, fiber-optic wide-area network known as GISnet connects all agencies that are part of the GIS implementation. The network allows immediate access to GIS data deemed publicly available. The agency providing information decides whether or not GIS information will be made available on the network. For instance, the location of sewage connections is available on the network but not necessarily the details regarding the contract awarded to install those connections.

CGIS selected the Drainage Division as the first department to implement GIS. A pilot project executed in the city of Al Khor generated recommendations for the expansion of GIS to other ministries, departments and sections.

The successful completion of this pilot project served as a stepping stone to a total GIS implementation with the Drainage Division. The data from a condition-and-position survey on manholes and sewers throughout Qatar is now on line and available to all users at the division.

The Drainage Division is currently performing an extensive survey of private house connections to primary sewer lines in Doha. Information gleaned from this survey includes the number homes that are connected to the sewer network and the number of properties that still depend on a septic tank for their sewage disposal.

The government has committed to provide connections for every residential property in the State of Qatar. The sewage connection survey provides information to determine the location of properties in need of connection. In the past, a citizen would contact the Drainage Division requesting a house connection. These individual requests were time-consuming and expensive for the division. Working proactively, now a number of connections required in a given area are grouped together, making the service more efficient and greatly reducing mobilization costs.

During the survey, the crews picked more detailed information regarding existing sewage connections such as the size and material of pipe, the depth of the internal manhole and whether the connection was to a manhole or pipe. They recorded the street name and number, zone and plot number of the property, the type of property, and the electricity and water identification numbers allocated to the property by the Ministry of Electricity and Water. The precise position of the internal manhole or septic tank of every property was determined in relation to property boundaries and existing buildings. While all of this data was not necessary for work completion, the crews took the opportunity to collect this information for use by other government agencies that would implement GIS.

As a member of Qatar`s GIS Coordinating Group, the Drainage Division is committed to the cooperative sharing of related information among the various ministries involved in maintaining the national GIS database. For example, topographic data from the national database is used to determine the location of buildings in relationship to the existing sewer network. This sharing of data is essential for surveys and the subsequent GIS applications and makes the division more efficient in providing new connections for the residents of the country.

The GIS application developed by the Drainage Division automatically proposes the type and length of sewage connection required and the number and type of fittings necessary, based on the existing sewers and manholes located adjacent to the property in question. The application produces a three-page report showing the location of the property on scales of 1 to 50,000 and 1 to10,000 and a detailed survey sheet showing the property, existing septic tank, proposed house connection, and the existing sewer network to which the property will be connected. The application also produces an estimate report detailing the cost of installing the connection.

A procedure was necessary to expedite the essential service of providing house connections. The new method has been successful in making the Drainage Division more efficient and effective in using its resources.

The introduction of GIS to the State of Qatar has led to the development of a number of applications. The Drainage Division has enjoyed immense success in providing better services to the country`s residents by performing specialized tasks in a more efficient and professional manner. It is anticipated that this trend will continue and lead to further reengineering of the country`s business activities.

Author Bios

Jim Baumann is the GIS communications coordinator for the Centre for Geographic Information Systems in the State of Qatar. Shafik Jiwani is the Head of the information systems section for the Civil Engineering Department`s Drainage Division in the State of Qatar.

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