California Water Service

Water main replacement project requires fast, accurate GIS data

Client Challenge

Founded in 1926, Cal Water serves nearly a half-million customers in California through 28 customer and operations centers scattered throughout the state. In 2016, Cal Water faced the challenge and necessity of upgrading and replacing miles of old water mains throughout their service territory. This also involved updating paper maps and outdated GIS that weren’t always accurate in locating these underground assets.

The water main lines were past their usable life, and in order to preclude more costly water main breaks, Cal Water decided to approve and initiate the territory-wide water main replacement program. These lines had previously been mapped using relative measurements captured with measuring wheels and then hand-drawn on paper as-built forms.

Given the historical challenges in accurately mapping and relocating old lines, Cal Water wanted an accurate, reliable, and repeatable solution to mapping any new lines that went in the ground. Equally as important, they needed to ensure that they would be able to accurately relocate these buried lines at any time in the future.

CSDS Mapping Solution

Cal Water met with the CSDS Mapping division to determine the right hardware and software for their needs. Given their need for real-time accuracy and repeatability, the Geo 7X centimeter kits were selected, as well as the TerraSync centimeter edition field data collection software and the Trimble Pathfinder Office software for post-processing and export to GIS.

Cal Water purchased approximately 2 units per district, totaling near 60 units statewide. The units were deployed to each district and the CSDS Mapping team provided 6 regional comprehensive training sessions to get everyone started. CSDS worked with Cal Water to develop a curriculum for these trainings as well as a statewide protocol for how the data would be collected and utilized.

The Result

One year later, the project is now in full swing and Cal Water has mapped and recorded a significant percentage of their main lines. This accurate spatial data is populating their GIS on a weekly basis. New lines continue to be mapped as they are installed.

Now Cal Water has the confidence that in the event of a rupture they will be able to accurately relocate the main lines and associated infrastructure like shutoff valves. This allows them to perform necessary repairs without wasting time and money digging in the wrong location.

Lesson Learned

Cal Water has potentially saved millions of dollars in future repair costs simply by being able to accurately map and locate thousands of miles of underground water infrastructure. All it took was a relatively small investment in accurate Trimble GNSS mapping systems along with help, training, and support from the CSDS Mapping team.