via Stormwater Solutions

In 2007, the Washington State Department of Ecology published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements for municipalities. The purpose of the permit is to mitigate the impact of water pollution by regulating and managing point sources that discharge pollutants into public waters.

Homegrown Approach

Located 11 miles south of Seattle, the city of Burien has a population of about 45,000. The city’s Public Works Department (PWD) is responsible for the maintenance and operation of its storm water facilities. Working to keep waterways clean and safe for the community, fish, animals and habitat, the department ensures safe functioning of drainage facilities, reduction of contaminants from storm water runoff and high water quality standards.

Like many cities, Burien, Wash., quickly discovered that its storm water management system lacked the capabilities to track and report pollutant and water quality criteria to adhere to the new standard.

Previously, the city had managed its storm water infrastructure using a homegrown work management system. Asset data was collected on paper and entered into an Access database developed to manage work activities on storm water features. After identifying work management needs, the city mapped the features in the GIS. While this system worked well initially, the new permit requirements, combined with substantial city growth, pushed the existing system beyond its limits.

“As the city became larger and more assets were being mapped, the ability to create work orders, run inspections and update the GIS data became too cumbersome,” said Fernando Llamas Jr., GIS analyst for the city of Burien. “Upgrades to the GIS software also made it difficult to keep our custom work management system up to speed with software changes.”

Changes on the Horizon

At the same time, Burien was bringing its maintenance crew in house. Despite the many benefits this change brought, it also produced an influx of work-related information to be managed, putting further strain on the city’s existing work management system.

These inefficiencies prompted the city to look for a new asset management system (AMS). Burien sought a system that would fulfill the NPDES permit requirements, support growing infrastructure and leverage its investment in GIS.

“With a strong GIS background, naturally I was—and still am—a big proponent of GIS-based solutions,” Llamas said. “I had seen Cityworks AMS by Azteca Systems, which is seamlessly interwoven with Esri’s ArcGIS, and was compelled to further investigate the solution. Initially, our biggest draw to the product was its existence within the GIS database resulting in no middle tier. We looked into other options, but in the end we felt confident [the AMS system] would meet our needs and decided to sole source it.”

The city began its implementation of Cityworks Desktop in 2008. Initially, the software was used to manage storm water assets and maintenance activities within the PWD. Continued growth and the addition of more maintenance staff led the city to upgrade to the browser-based Cityworks Server AMS solution in February 2011.

Permit Compliance

The integration of the city’s GIS asset inventory, inspections and work order management has helped Burien meet its NPDES permit requirements. Cityworks Server AMS plays an important role in fulfilling essential components of the permit process and helped the city attain more accurate and efficient storm water management practices.

“By centralizing the work activities and integrating them with GIS, Burien has been able to produce more accurate, timely and up-to-date information on storm water assets,” Llamas said. “Duplication of effort has been reduced, and we’re able to better utilize our maintenance crew by performing work more efficiently. We can also now perform data analysis that delivers standardized and reliable results.”

Burien’s storm water maintenance workers can open, complete and close work orders from the field in real time. Replacement and installation of assets are identified and added to the GIS, with underlying reference mapping visible on handheld devices. Inspections are performed in the same workflow, giving users and analysts access to the most current work and inspection information.

The city was easily able to justify its switch to the new system with a few reports. Better work activity management helped mitigate and reduce liability as work can be easily tracked and substantiated.

“Increased access to work information in real time enables us to follow up with city residents faster and with proof that work was completed on a particular asset or at a specific location in the city,” Llamas said.

Equipped for the Future

In the future, Burien plans to further develop inspections and automate enforcement tasks related to privately owned or maintained water facilities and assets. The city also plans to develop more reporting and analysis that will support development of future capital projects to improve aging infrastructure.