GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Coordinator Colleen Larsen has been mapping and analyzing Padre Dam's infrastructure for almost twenty years. Colleen and her team maintain spatial data on all of Padre Dam's assets such as pump stations, pipes, valves, laterals and more. This spatial data assists our staff in accessing data while in the field. This important work helps staff more efficiently track and record completed work in real time.
The result is a lot like Google Maps, but with detailed information about the District's infrastructure. Like Google Maps, the system includes an aerial view of the District's service area and interactive data points. These maps allow District employees to access information ranging from where pipes are located to when the last time a specific valve has been exercised.
"When you are driving down the street, you usually don't realize how much infrastructure you're driving over." Colleen said. "Once you know you can't help but have an appreciation for the work that goes into maintaining everything."
Understanding Padre Dam's infrastructure is imperative to keeping it up-to-date and determining when certain portions might need inspection, maintenance or replacement. Engineers use this data from Colleen and the GIS team to decide what capital improvement projects the District will complete. Additionally, operators use the GIS system to log and track maintenance and work in real time through phones or tablets.
Padre Dam maintains 580 miles of water, wastewater and recycled water mains along with 29 reservoir tanks, 17 pump stations and 4 lift stations. It is important to have the location and information on each of these assets accessible for routine maintenance and is especially helpful in case of emergencies.
"Customers don't see GIS data often, but this back-end support is what makes reliable infrastructure possible."
Colleen began her career at Padre Dam as a temporary employee scanning documents after graduating from college. She was soon promoted to an engineering technician job, and now leads the Padre Dam GIS team as the GIS Coordinator. Through the years, Colleen has seen the District's data transform through several software changes as technology advances and becomes more efficient. When she is not at work, she enjoys immersing herself in music, including singing in a local blues band.