Using the Power of GIS to Manage Natural Resources

Client : Central Platte Natural Resource District

We are simply ecstatic about the new system; I can’t believe how easy it is to use and how much time it’s going to save us. The GIS website has made it easier to record and track changes, which has been a real problem in the past. I just wish we had done it sooner.”

-Sandy Noecker, Data and Compliance Officer

The Challenge

Managing and preserving our Natural Resources is no small task; it’s important that the Natural Resource Districts who are responsible for overseeing these resources have access to the most effective and advanced tools available. One area of particular concern to Natural Resource managers in the Midwest is water – monitoring its quality and abundance so we can ensure a clean and reliable flow of water for years to come. Central Platte Natural Resource District (CPNRD) in Nebraska recognized early on the benefits of using GIS as an approach to managing water resources. GIS Workshop has had the opportunity to work with CPNRD over the last decade to help them utilize geographic information systems (GIS) to track water resources. Until recently, one of the biggest hurdles faced by the NRD has been accurately managing water quality and compliance reporting from the thousands of agricultural producers in the district who irrigate and apply fertilizer to their fields. In areas where nitrogen levels are high, the NRD requires all producers to submit an annual Groundwater Quality Management Report form. This process involves issuing letters to producers via the mail that must be filled out by hand and returned to CPNRD staff, who then have to manually re-enter the data into a database. The CPNRD staff sought a streamlined and more efficient method to collect, record, and monitor this data from producers.

 

GIS Workshop’s Solution

GIS Workshop teamed up with CPNRD to create a custom web-based GIS application that focuses on improving efficiency and communication by moving the entire reporting and management system from a series of Access databases to a single website. The site streamlines and simplifies workflows by allowing district staff to communicate directly with agricultural producers while monitoring water quality and ensuring compliance. Using the mapping website, NRD staff can automatically generate and export letters for the producers that contain instructions for using the new web-based system. Producers can log into the system to submit the reports electronically and receive automatically generated and accurate recommendations for applying nitrogen to their fields. CPNRD staff can track these reports and easily view and manage all of the agricultural properties in the district. CPNRD staff also have access to a series of administrative tools that allow them to manage the landowners in the system as well as the agricultural properties. The GIS website streamlines workflows for both the public and CPNRD staff so that the district can make informed decisions and effectively manage our most precious resource.
 
GIS Website Screenshot

The Benefit

Using a web interface that connects both producers and district staff drastically reduces both time and potential errors by removing the need for manual data entry while increasing the accuracy and integrity of the data. With automated and accurate fertilizer recommendations for each field, landowners can apply the proper amount of nitrogen fertilizer while continuing to protect our water supply. By creating a web interface that automates and improves necessary workflows, GISW gave District staff access and autonomy to perform critical job functions by eliminating hundreds of labor hours. Maintaining and compiling the records and data submitted was very tedious and used to take weeks to accomplish; the new system eliminates this task entirely and management can now be done with the click of a button. The web application allows the general public to have real-time access to pertinent data and empowers both District staff and agricultural producers to actively manage and make decisions concerning our water.