July 2018

By Mark Thomas, GPS Mapping Coordinator 

he Kansas Rural Water Association (KRWA) has

completed more than 300 mapping projects for RWDs

and cities in Kansas. More and more people are now

recognizing the value of having quality maps in a digital

format. One thing that I would like to point out though, is

that not all maps produced by KRWA, or any other utility

mapping company, are going to be completely accurate. One

city’s or RWD’s maps from KRWA may

be entirely more accurate than another,

and it needs to be recognized that the

labor in these projects should involve the

respective system just as much as KRWA.

Obviously if a utility has made the

decision to take part in a GPS mapping

project, then there was a recognized need

for better maps. It also needs to be

recognized though, that GPS mapping

alone cannot accomplish this. In a sense,

KRWA mapping should be used as a tool

to accomplish the end goal – better maps.

With the end goal of having better maps

through GPS mapping, it should be

apparent that anyone with locational

knowledge of the system becomes

involved with the project. Whether it be landowners in a

RWD, present or former operators and excavators, having

them involved helps to obtain all possible information

concerning the installation and locations of pipes, valves,

etc. to make the new maps better than the old maps.

Otherwise, the new maps will have the same incorrect water


Many RWDs that were installed in the 60’s and 70’s were

provided as-built maps at the completion of their project.

Some of these maps were very well done and detailed, while

others were not. Some systems

did not even receive the maps.

The reasons for this can be

attributed to the quality of the

inspector on the project, or if the

project even had an inspector.

Systems that find themselves

with poor as-builts or no as-builts

should not expect to

automatically have accurate maps

if they hire KRWA or a mapping

company to do GPS mapping of

the system. It's a step in the right

direction, but in order to receive

the desired result, the people with

the most knowledge of the system

need to be involved. KRWA will

collect an accurate GPS location on every known point in a

system. These include meters, valves, fire hydrants, and

known points on lines as well. As most people in the water

industry can attest to, where some

water lines were installed between

valves is anybody’s guess, but I would

want the person with the most

educated guess making the guess if

they were my maps. If that guess ends

The graphic below shows a segment of the wastewater collection system in

Fairview, Kansas in Brown County. The city incorporated useful information into the

GPS mapping of the system. For example, the valve in upper left is No. H-1 and is

10.4 feet deep. the "160.3' @ 0.40% indicates the distance and grade. The crosses

indicated service taps. The measurements are, e.,g., 64 feet from the valve, etc.

Having better maps by

itself is great for any

utility, but having the

mapping data in a

shapefile format or a

geodatabase can bring the

utility so many more


Gaining Improved Mapping 
Requires Accurate Information