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30 April 2015

Five advantages of using GIS to manage your landfill’s subsurface data

GIS can be used in so many ways to manage and analyze landfill operational issues. This post is going to focus on subsurface data management and five key advantages of using GIS to make it easier and more efficient.

#1 – GIS helps you efficiently manage data and files for site assets

Weier_GIS1I am frequently asked how to manage all the files for assets, and by this I mean logs, images, and spreadsheets for wells, probes, horizontal collectors, control devices, leachate sumps, etc. My biggest recommendation is to leverage the capabilities of a database. The reason is simple – you get better data management, analytical, retrieval, and recovery capabilities, plus less paper clutter in your office. By converting your spreadsheets to tables in the database, and creating maps from those tables, all of your logs, images, (and even videos) can be attached to your site assets in the database. For instance, a boring log and images for well “EW-23” will be attached to the well “EW-23” point on the map and can be quickly retrieved via the asset on the map, using either the “Identify” tool or the “Pop-up” tool as shown in the picture.

#2 – With GIS, you can quickly retrieve map features using data queries

Weier-GIS2Often times map users will find features on the map first, then click on the feature to identify its properties or to retrieve a file attached to the feature. But what if you don’t know where the feature is located or you are having difficulty finding it on the map? With GIS and its underlying data, you can select data using a query. For example, if you are looking for well “EW-23”, you can easily run a query on the data table for well “EW-23” and let the software find the location for you. When the software finds well “EW-23”, it will be highlighted (light blue on image). Then, use the “Pop Up” tool (as shown above) to see the data and the attachments(s) for the features.

#3 – GIS offers visual identification

Weier-GIS3Visually representing data in a spatial context is another advantage of using GIS. The picture shows how to use the values from a field in the wells table, stored in the database, for an easy and quick visual identification of active versus decommissioned wells.

#4 – See things in 3D

Weier_GIS4_3D_LF-featuresWhen a map reader uses a two-dimensional (2D) map, he or she needs to interpret locations of assets on the map with other documents (for example, a well schedule, including depths), or a lot of labels that, when placed on a map, can quickly make the map difficult to read. In either case, the map readers need to visualize the data themselves. Visualizing assets in 3D, however, the viewer can manipulate any axis of the model and see the assets from any perspective. The viewer can also “fly through” the model, which lets you see assets deep inside the landfill. This provides a better understanding of the site, locations of assets, spatial relationships, as well as the ability to perform analyses in 3D.

#5 – GIS gives you spatial tools and analysis capabilities

Landfill topography changes regularly and often this surface elevation is used as the basis for other calculations, such as liquid levels. We often receive liquid levels as depths from the top of the well to the top of the liquid. In order for us to know how much of the screen is blocked, we need the elevation of the liquid and therefore need an elevation reference. “Add Surface Information” is a tool that captures surface information, from any 3D surface, of the elevation where the surface intersects each well location, and adds that surface elevation to the data table. This surface elevation data can then be used in calculations to provide more meaningful information. So, instead of the liquid being 50 feet from the top of the well, we can now use the surface elevation in our calculation to get the liquid elevation, and further (in conjunction with well design information on the depth and length of the well screen) calculate how much of the screen is blocked. Using tools like these, with data already present in a GIS, can sometimes be more efficient and cost effective than having to go back out into the field to capture more data.

Stay tuned for future posts that will deal with using GIS for gas and leachate recirculation management, installation of new wells, and environmental compliance. I’m also planning a separate post on data capabilities in the field – mobile technologies are very exciting new tools and there’s a lot of information to share!

What else have you used GIS for in managing subsurface data and what has been the benefit for your landfill?

Aaron Weier is the GIS Director for Cornerstone Environmental Group, LLC and has 17 years of experience implementing GIS.

Categories: Biogas and Landfill Gas, Environmental Planning & Compliance, Landfill Engineering and Design, Operations and Maintenance
Posted By Aaron Weier at 10:10 AM  |  1 Comment on Five advantages of using GIS to manage your landfill’s subsurface data

One Response to “Five advantages of using GIS to manage your landfill’s subsurface data”

  1. Ed McGivern says:

    Mr. Weier,

    Please e-mail me a schedule of your upcoming Landfill/GIS webcasts.

    Thank you,
    Ed McGivern, P.E.
    Landfill Technical Specialist
    I-95 Landfill Complex
    County of Fairfax, Virginia

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