GIS Technology – A Bright Future for Irrigation Design
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GIS Technology – A Bright Future for Irrigation Design

Mar 17, 2023
Video Length:  55:04
Presented By:  Hannah Conover

Geographic information systems (GIS) provide data that can prove crucial in helping designers adapt their plans to real-world conditions. Join Hannah Conover for a presentation on GIS as a potentially vital companion to CAD in the irrigation design process. Currently a student at Cal Poly State University and a geospatial relations intern at Blue Diamond, Hannah will draw on her GIS experience with Land IQ and the U.S. Forest Service to showcase the benefits of GIS, including which types of data it can integrate into your designs, how it integrates with CAD, and how it can continue to support your irrigation systems through the construction phase and beyond.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)


  • Intro/TOC
  • GIS and CAD Integration
  • GIS Public Data & Its Uses
  • Remote Sensing & Its Role in Water Conservation & Management
  • Use of GIS in Mapping Projects & Potential for More Care After the Design Process

0:00 – 2:18: Intro/TOC

2:19 – 11:19: GIS and CAD Integration

GIS basics: The technology (2:19)

Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technology that allows for the capture, storage, manipulation, analysis, and presentation of geographic data. It uses hardware, software, and data to work with spatial information, which is information that has a location of geographic component.


GIS data (2:59)

GIS data types can be classified into two main categories: raster and vector data. GIS data can also be further categorized into spatial, non-spatial, attribute, and metadata types.


GIS data details (3:17)

  • Geospatial data:
    • Raster: Represented by a grid of cells or pixels. Each pixel in a raster dataset contains a value that represents a particular feature or attribute of the geographic area being analyzed.
    • Vector: Represents geographic features as points, lines, and polygons. These features are defined by their spatial relationships to one another and can be used to analyze and understand the physical characteristics of a given area.
  • Non-spatial: GIS metadata provides essential information about geospatial data, such as the data's source, date of creation, accuracy, and reliability. GIS attribute data contains non-spatial information that describes the characteristics of spatial features in a geospatial dataset.


GIS data displays (5:28)

GIS data can be displayed in various ways, including maps, charts, graphs, and 3D visualizations. Interactive Web maps are a popular way to display GIS data, allowing users to explore and interact with data layers through a Web browser. GIS data layers are individual datasets that contain specific types of geospatial information, such as roads, buildings, land use, or hydrology, which can be combined to create a comprehensive GIS analysis.


Applications (6:54)

GIS has a wide range of applications in various fields, including urban planning, environmental management, transportation, emergency management, and agriculture. GIS can also be used in remote sensing to process, analyze, and visualize satellite and aerial imagery to extract valuable geospatial information and make informed decisions.


Software availability (7:44)

Esri GIS software is a leading platform for creating, managing, analyzing, and sharing geospatial data and maps. Its suite of software products includes ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, Map Viewer, and Urban.


GIS and CAD (8:35)

GIS vs. CAD (8:42)

  • Data types: GIS is designed to work with geospatial data that have location information, while CAD focuses on graphical representations of design and engineering products.
  • Spatial relationships: GIS software understands spatial relationships between features, such as distance, adjacency, and containment, which is not part of CAD.
  • Analysis capabilities: GIS provides tools for spatial analysis, such as buffer zones, proximity analysis, and spatial queries, that are not available in CAD.
  • Data sources: GIS can incorporate and analyze data from a wide range of sources, including remote sensing, GPS, and survey data, while CAD focuses on data created within the software.
  • Output formulas: GIS produces maps and visualizations that can be used for spatial analysis and decision-making, while CAD produces detailed engineering and design drawings.


Integration possibilities (10:19)

GIS and CAD are often integrated to take advantage of the strengths of both technologies. GIS can provide context for CAD drawings by adding geospatial data, such as aerial imagery or terrain data, Conversely, CAD can provide detailed design information that can be used in GIS analysis, such as irrigation layouts or building footprints. The integration of GIS and CAD allows for more informed decision-making and better design outcomes.

11:20 – 33:49: GIS Public Data & Its Uses

Public data (11:20)

GIS public data is geospatial data made available to the public by government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or private companies for free or at a low cost. This data can include a wide range of geospatial information such as maps, satellite imagery, demographic data, and environmental data.


USGS (11:50)

The US Geological Survey has thousands of relevant spatial data and imagery collections, including maps, satellite imagery, and environmental data, that can be used for effective irrigation design. All data can be used freely without permission.


USGS: Useful Public Data (12:12)

  • Elevation data:
    • Elevation data can be downloaded through USGS and added to a GIS project.
    • Elevation is critical for irrigation design for maintaining flow rates and pressures.
    • Designers can use the elevation data to make changes to their irrigation systems to maintain design specs.
  • Watershed:
    • Watershed data can be downloaded through USGS and added to a GIS project.
    • Watershed mapping can be used to predict possible irrigation run-off.
    • Irrigation run-off poses as a threat to natural watersheds and the environment.
    • Watershed spatial data can allow engineers to make better design calls to minimize harmful runoff.
  • Imagery:
    • The USGS offers satellite imagery from Landsat, Modis, and ASTER.
    • Satellite imagery can be used as a base map for irrigation designers.
    • However, free satellite imagery is typically offered at low resolution.


USGS data example (15:56)

Data such as nitrogen in water can be inserted into GIS software as raster data and presented visually with an irrigation design. Irrigation designs buffered within close proximity of nitrogen infested water will have to account for possible growth of algae within their pipelines.


Google Earth (16:55)

Google Earth offers high-resolution imagery for non-commercial use. Google Earth Engine is a software tool for extracting desired information from imagery. (Programming skills are required.) Pricings are available for commercial use.


Google Earth and landscape integration (17:35)

By using Google Earth's high-resolution satellite imagery and mapping tools in GIS, urban landscaping and irrigation studies can identify areas of low water efficiency, determine optimal locations for green spaces, and develop strategies for sustainable water use in cities. This capability can lead to more effective urban planning and improved water management practices.


Google Earth and landscape integration (18:41)

Google Earth provides a platform for accessing and visualizing high-resolution satellite imagery, which can be used in GIS to analyze agricultural and landscape features such as crop health, land use, soil types, and terrain. This capability can assist in making informed decisions related to agricultural irrigation management and land-use planning.


Google Earth Engine (GEE) (19:57)

Imagery can be dissected in GEE for spectral0-adiometric changes. Largescale landscaped and agricultural land can be analyzed through GEE for their responses to new irrigation. Irrigated areas that are too spotted in color may be experiencing poor uniform distribution, which will waste water while not supplying enough water to certain areas. Visualizing irrigation with GIS spectral analysis aids in understanding the effect of different irrigation techniques and where the system is at fault.


Evapotranspiration (ET) data (21:57)

CIMIS offers important data regarding weather, precipitation, temperature, wind, ETo, and other imperative information for irrigation scheduling and design. This data can be used to predict future irrigation scheduling based on past and average trends in weather. The weather stations are scattered throughout California.


Open ET is a public platform for visualizing past and current ET spatial values. ET can be compared with flow meter data to estimate how much water was potentially wasted.


CIMIS data chart (example) (24:10)


Open ET (24:48)


Soil Web (26:11)

The USDA offers free downloadable and viewable soil data on Web Soil Survey and Soil Web. The soil data can be implemented into GIS for irrigation design purposes. An AOI shapefile can be inserted into the website to extract desired soil information as well.


Information available on Soil Web (example (27:01)


Soil's impact on irrigation (28:05)

  • Soil workability
    • Soil workability plays a huge role in the construction of irrigation systems as well as planting and harvesting.
    • Soil that is more workable tends to need less maintenance.
    • Knowing how workable the soil is for irrigation construction can aide effectively estimating building time/ cost.
  • Available water
    • All soils have an available water holding capacity.
    • Plants with an extensive root depth will need soil with a deeper water holding capacity.
    • Plants with a shallow root zone do not need to be in soil with deep water holding capacity.
    • Knowing the water holding capacity aids in developing irrigation scheduling as well as emitter specs.
  • Drainage
    • The soil must be drainable otherwise water will collect and cause root rot.
    • Soil with low drainage will need a less frequent irrigation, vice versa.
  • Runoff
    • Soil with high runoff and low infiltration rate will result in poor effective irrigation.
    • Too much runoff can be damaging to surrounding watersheds and environments as well.
  • Erosion
    • Soils subject to high erosion rates will lose their topsoil more quickly.
    • The topsoil contains essential nutrients to plants.
    • Understanding the chance for soil erosion allows for proper irrigation and landscape management.
  • Classification
    • Knowing the types of soil on a land parcel is essential to choosing plants to irrigate, therefore deciding which irrigation method to use and design.
    • Not all plants are equal.


Analyzing soil with GIS (32:16)

  • Accurate mapping
    • Adding soil data to a .aprx GIS project will display coordinate specific spatial soil data.
    • Placing a potential irrigation system over a soil layer will show how the two line up.
  • Estimating compatibility
    • Accurate soil mapping improves water use estimations, irrigation scheduling, and plant compatibility. For example:
      • Planting plants that have a large root zone in soil with limited water holding capacity results in over watering for the plant to survive.
      • A soil with a low water holding capacity will have a narrow window between too much and not enough moisture.
      • Soil with chances of high run-off will need more drainage engineering for decreased chance of flooding.
      • Soils with chances of high erosion on slopes may need retaining walls.

33:50 – 42:46: Remote Sensing & Its Role in Water Conservation & Management

Remote sensing definition (33:56):

Remote sensing is the process of collecting information about an object or phenomenon without physical contact through the use of various sensors such as satellites, drones, or aircrafts. It involves measuring and analyzing the electromagnetic radiation emitted or reflected from the target area to obtain data about its properties and features.


How remote sensing can be used (36:08)

Remote sensing is a cost-effective way to make design decisions without the hassle of continuously returning to the field. It can be used to monitor the water usage of crops and vegetation by analyzing their spectral properties, such as NDVI, and patterns of water uptake. This practice can help in identifying areas of over-or under-irrigation and overall irrigation efficiency.


Merging with CAD (37:17)

The integration of GIS And CAD can be beneficial for irrigation design. GIS can provide spatial data such as soil types, topography, and land use, while CAD can be used to create detailed irrigation system designs. The two systems can be integrated to enable irrigation designers to work with both spatial and design data in a single environment, allowing for more accurate and efficient irrigation system designs.


The irrigation design specifications should be modeled from the soil data, elevation data, imagery, watershed data, etc. Any discrepancies are easily visible in the user interface, hence preventing any design errors.


GIS can analyze water use (39:11)

GIS software can perform zonal raster analysis with ET spatial data, crop coefficient data, soil data, and coverage area. By overlaying this information on a map, GIS can help identify areas of high water demand and potential water stress.


Combined with local ETo and weather data, accurate water balancing irrigation scheduling's can be estimated to landscaped/ agricultural needs.


GIS can also be used to monitor changes in water use over time, helping identify trends and opportunities for sustainable water management.


Example (41:41)


Irrigation scheduling based on GIS data: example (42:10)

42:47 – end: Use of GIS in Mapping Projects & Potential for More Care After the Design Process

Satellite location (43:01)

GIS projects can be loaded onto mobile devices with the users' location live projected onto the project through the use of software platforms such as ArcGIS field maps.


Navigating projects (43:18)

Builders can actively map out and locate themselves during the construction phase of the project, which allows for more efficient project navigation. Builders can also make coordinate specific notes if necessary during construction.


More after construction support (44:11):

For farmers and landscape owners:

  • Farmers can have their own field map of their irrigation systems.
    • Easily navigate the irrigation design.
    • Make coordinate specific pinpoints of any damage or breaks in the irrigation system.
    • Can send harvesters and planters to specific locations.
    • Can track harvest / planting progress by map.
  • Landscape owners can have their own generated irrigation schedules to avoid overwatering and underwatering.


For engineers:

  • Engineers can have their own field map of their irrigation systems.
    • Recognize any mistakes in the design by exact location, allowing for better design decisions to made in the future.
    • Can easily map any damages for repairs.
    • Easy visual organization of their past projects.


GIS and drought conditions (50:12)


Question: When is it better to use data from Google Earth Engine vs. from other sources such as state, city, or county data? (52:11)

Answer: Google Earth Engine requires coding and extracting. With government data, the work is already done for you.


Question: Does accessing this data require a license or knowledge of a particular software? (53:30)

Answer: Yes, either a software license for a platform or going through an environmental firm.

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