Lessons Learned From the Implementation of a GIS Program at the

Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health

 

Speaker:                     Kevin Troutman, REHS

Environmental Health Scientist/GIS, Bernalillo County EH

Level of Knowledge: Multi-Level

Short Abstract:

The Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health (BCOEH) began a well location program using GPS in mid-2001 and expanded data collection to include septic systems and dumping sites by January 2002.  ESRI and Trimble software is used with this data.  BCOEH operates 5 data collection units.

BCOEH has learned several lessons.  A training program must be developed to ensure quality data collection.  Staff utilizes GPS equipment sporadically, so refresher courses may be necessary.  Software training is also needed so staff feels comfortable.  Once GIS has become established for a particular purpose, it will expand rapidly to other uses, requiring additional staff time.

The use of gross receipts tax rather than general funds will reduce the effectiveness of the program in the future.  The acquisition of highly capable software is not always the best solution.  Using licenses purchased by other departments does not give control over the overall software selection.

Long Abstract:

The Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health (BCOEH) began a well location program using GPS in mid-2001 and expanded GPS data collection to include on-site wastewater systems and illegal dumping sites by January 2002.  To date, BCOEH has located approximately 1000 wells and nearly 1500 on-site wastewater systems.  The processing and display of this information is done using ESRI ArcGIS, ArcReader, and ArcIMS software and Trimble GPS Pathfinder Office.  BCOEH operates 3 Trimble GeoExplorer 3 data collectors and 2 Trimble GeoExplorer XT data collectors.  The use of GIS software has been expanded to include the evaluation of sites prior to a field investigation.

The project was required by a County resolution that required the location of all wells within the County and reporting permit data in an easy to use GIS.  The original funding sources for these projects came from a gross receipts tax for the construction and maintenance of environmental facilities within the County.  BCOEH borrows software licenses from the County GIS office for data processing and display.

BCOEH has learned several lessons since the project started.  A training program must be developed to ensure quality data collection.  Staff utilizes the GPS equipment sporadically, so refresher courses may be necessary.  Software training is also needed.  Experience has shown that staff will only use software that they feel comfortable using.  Another important lesson is that once GIS has become established for a particular purpose, it will expand rapidly to other uses, requiring additional staff time.

With the four years of experience, BCOEH may have changed the way the program developed.  The use of gross receipts tax rather than general funds will reduce the effectiveness of the program in the future.  The acquisition of highly capable software is not always the best solution.  Using licenses purchased by other departments does not give control over the overall software selection.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn what BCOEH has done to incorporate GIS and GPS into daily activities and the effects it has had on performance.
  2. Learn how the program was developed and what steps were necessary to keep the program running.
  3. Learn what BCOEH may have done differently with the gained experience of the past four years.