February 2015
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GIS Case Study – LA County Regional Storm Drain System

Department of Public Works (DPW)

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Problem: Los Angeles County’s urbanization took place in a region prone to periodic droughts and flooding.  Designed to protect life and property from flooding caused by major storm events, a drainage infrastructure of debris basins, catch basins, inlet structures, underground storm drains, and channels was built in the County by local, state, and federal governmental agencies, such as Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD), cities, Caltrans, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The LACFCD alone owns and/or maintains approximately 3,800 miles of storm drains, 500 miles of open channels, and over 80,000 catch basins.  The operation and maintenance, as well as improvement planning for the countywide drainage system resulted in extensive labor costs due to the high frequency of locating, retrieving, and reviewing old maps and drawings as well as cross-checking multiple databases by staff in several jurisdictions.  Unnecessary redundancy, duplication of efforts, and errors were inherent in a system that was often based on paper drawings stored in separate field offices.
Solution:The Storm Drain System (SDS) is a Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping project with the purpose of collecting information on extensive and disparate drainage infrastructure (such as geographic location, design specifications, maintenance responsibility, ownership, flow rate, and flow direction) and integrating it into an efficient seamless countywide GIS network model as well as web-based and mobile applications for a more efficient operation and maintenance, planning and free public access.  Users can access LACFCD design drawings and right of way maps through the system.  Though links are provided for downloading data, users are encouraged to visit the Storm Drain System page on the Los Angeles County GIS Data Portal, which provides additional information about the downloads.
Summary:For many years, a storm drain GIS system of this scale and detail was a mere vision.  The project began in 2004, when the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County needed to satisfy an environmental consent decree. In 2008, Public Works selected a GIS editing team to complete the network schema and map the remaining LACFCD-owned or maintained infrastructure and populate the attributes.Though still considered a work in progress, numerous benefits are being realized.  Detailed facility information is already helping field crews realize substantial savings due to reductions in operation and maintenance labor hours and inquiries from the public.  Also, customers can easily apply for permits to connect their drainage systems to the LACFCD-maintained infrastructure and Public Works is better able to plan and carry out the periodic catch basin cleanout activities.
Contact:  Thierno Diallo, PE (tdiallo@dpw.lacounty.gov) – (626) 458-6920



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