Climate change, land development, population movement, and other dynamic factors of today’s world are leading stakeholders from all levels of government to implement geospatial solutions for stormwater management. At Ecopia AI (Ecopia), we work with federal, state, and local governments to provide a source of truth for the land cover features that impact stormwater infrastructure and planning, including highly detailed classifications of impervious, pervious, and unpaved compacted surfaces that enable decision-makers to adapt their strategies to a rapidly changing world.
This work across the public sector has exposed us to many different stormwater mapping projects. While each government entity we work with has unique requirements, we find that most projects have a similar workflow in common. To help government agencies looking to enhance their usage of geospatial data for impervious surface and stormwater mapping, we created this checklist outlining the most common approaches we’ve seen from government clients around the world.
1. Decide on your end goal
Before beginning any project, the team involved should agree on an end goal. For stormwater mapping, this typically means defining statements like:
- optimize stormwater utility fee (SUF) or drainage fee calculations;
- build more accurate flood models;
- develop sustainable stormwater infrastructure;
- mitigate risk from natural hazards;
and other similar goals related to climate resilience. It’s important to have this simple guiding principle before getting bogged down in the details. Instead of starting out by copying the exact stormwater mapping strategy as another agency, take a step back and figure out what you ultimately want to achieve when the project is complete. For example, it is more productive to begin your project by stating “we want to optimize SUF calculations” than by deciding “we need data for every feature in our county.” Having a high-level project goal also helps justify the effort to less technical stakeholders who may need to approve it.
Once this end goal is defined, teams can better create a plan to achieve it. That’s when governments can start digging into the details of the project, like what type of data is needed and the specific requirements it should have based on the end goal. At Ecopia, we call this a fit-for-purpose approach to building the exact data our clients need.
2. Determine the scope of your project
A critical step in any project, but especially one involving geospatial information, is to determine the scope. For stormwater mapping this generally means identifying the geographic extent you will be mapping and analyzing, what features you need data for across that extent, and what timeframe you want the features to represent. As an example, the City of Detroit identified a need for 25 distinct land cover features, updated annually, in order to support their SUF calculation and general business across the entire city.