Water Distribution : Water Supply Geographic Information System (GIS)

Date 2015-06-25 Category Water Supply (Arisu) Updater scaadmin
Seoul Metropolitan Government
Last Update


Building a smart water supply facility management system by providing high-quality spatial information of the facilities
The “Water Supply Geographic Information System (GIS)” utilizes GIS technology to create a digital database of design and properties information of water pipes, supporting components, and other urban facilities in general. It is an information system consisting of hardware, software, and application allowing input, output, and analysis of digital data.
In 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government‘s Office of Waterworks created a team dedicated to the efficient design and management of the “Water Supply GIS.” At the same time, we are also implementing projects to upgrade the water supply GIS and improve the accuracy of the GIS database.

Overview of the Policy

<< Creating Water Supply GIS
<< Setting up a division responsible for operating and managing the GIS
<< Implementing projects to upgrade the GIS functions and making the database more accurate.


The lack of underground facility management system caused various safety incidents
The previous underground facility management scheme using hand-marked 1:3000, 1:5000 scale maps with lot numbers or 1:1200 scale planimetric maps was rather disorganized. Its poor quality led to a gas explosion in Ahyeon-dong, Seoul in 1995, leaving 12 people dead, 101 injured, and 145 buildings damaged. Numerous accidents broke out every year including the 1995 gas explosion at a subway construction site in Daegu, a fire in 2000 caused by an overheated power line in Yeouido, Seoul, and many other damages caused by nearby facility excavations. Such incidents called for a systematic, integrated underground facility management system.
The Korean government‘s national GIS initiative laid the foundation for the establishment of new geographic information system infrastructure
In 1995, the Korean government initiated the first National GIS Master Plan (1995 - 2000) with the aim of gathering digital geographic information of the entire country. It also began subsidizing local municipalities’ GIS projects starting with Seoul’s in order to spur the nationwide promotion of digital geographic information collection.
New demands from users arose with the advancement of GIS technology
Tap water quality has been improved due to the recent development of water supply technology. Consequently, facility management and planning, analysis, and projection of water supply system including the supply network, leak, interruption, and water quality have become even more important. The location information of water pipes managed by non-specialized public servants was extremely inaccurate; the properties information of the facilities turned out to be at least 30% different from the actual specifications on average. Not only that – the offset survey method using relative measurements made it difficult for the water supply system to be integrated into other underground facility (e.g., sewage, electricity, gas, communication, heating, and oil supply) management systems.
The permissible range of error was largely different for each of the systems.

Process of Policy Implementation

 • 1998 Seoul’s water supply GIS project plan was created.
 • 1999 Seoul’s water supply GIS project was initiated.
 • 2000 Program development and location & structure information editing were completed.
 • 2001 The water supply GIS project was completed.
 • 2002~2004 The water supply GIS DB was created, and system maintenance efforts began.
 • 2005~2014 Projects to upgrade the water supply GIS & improve DB accuracy are implemented.

Details of the Policy

Creating the GIS to be applied to Seoul’s Water Supply System
Between 1998 and 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government conducted a survey on the water supply system across the city (513km) with the aim of managing the system more effectively. Based on a 1:1000 scale map, Seoul created a digital database of water supply facilities’ location and properties information, which was further improved with additional programs and maintenance. Based on the Korean government's “Basic Plan for National Spatial Data Policy,” we drafted the “Basic Plan for the Seoul Geographic Information System,” initiated 9 new GIS services in 2002, and implemented several Gl-related policies and projects. We continue to lay the groundwork for the development of Gl-related technologies and extended use of the collected information.
Creating a division fully dedicated to GIS operation and management
We created the Geographic Information Division consisting of 1 director overseeing the entire project (Director of GI Division), 3 officials in charge of the water supply GIS DB (facility manager) and responsible for water supply GIS maintenance (computer systems manager), and 2 for data management and administrative support (facility manager). Moreover, we assigned a GI specialist (facility manager) and a DB editor (civil servant) at each of the eight district waterworks offices in Seoul.
Implementing projects to upgrade the water supply GIS & improve DB accuracy
We now live in an era in which advanced information technology such as the digital database and the Internet can be converged with geographic information. To manage the water supply facilities more scientifically and efficiently as well as to satisfy the multi-faceted demand by users for reasonable decision making on pipe design, network plan, and leak projections, a more sophisticated GIS is required. Therefore, we are implementing projects to enhance the accuracy of the water supply GIS DB and to upgrade the system.

In the future, we plan to improve our water supply management capability by developing new programs such as “Pipe Depreciation Assessment/Management Program,” “Water Supply Asset (Completion) Management Program,” and “Land-use Permission Management Program” and by creating a more user-oriented supply system. In addition, we plan to survey, explore, and measure 5,889km of water pipes and supporting facilities by 2020 through the “Water Supply GIS DB Upgrade Project” and use its outcome as the basis for making science-based decisions on city management and planning.

Know-how & Insights

Introducing the web-based water supply GIS
Replacing the previous C/S-based system with a web-based one, we made it easier for the workers at the site to send reports on their progress using PC or other devices and respond to various situations in a timely manner. Furthermore, maintenance work has become much more efficient since all works are now on a single web browser. The system‘s user interface (UI) was redesigned to fit the workflow (process) better, allowing users to respond more intuitively.
Surveying more water supply facilities
There are sections of underground water supply facilities that cannot be explored due to technical difficulties caused by other nearby facilities, depth of the facility, or other ground barriers. The more sections become unexplorable, the less accurate the water supply facility location information becomes. Consequently, systematic facility management becomes more challenging. Not only that -- inaccurate and unclear information provided to the users may hinder them from making a reasonable decision. Thus, we made workers who identify an unexplorable section keep a record of it for future management purposes and re-explored the site two to three times with different equipment and personnel. Additionally, we had multiple entities conduct a cross-examination of the site to stimulate mutual exchange of technology and virtuous competition among them, which would ultimately lead to the efficient fulfillment of our goal.
Creating a network of experts
When external experts are required (for consulting and evaluation), we use the spatial information expert pool of Seoul Metropolitan Government‘s Information Planning Office to form an advisory committee, a proposal evaluation committee, or the like, so that experts’ opinion and assessment are reflected on projects. Moreover, annual meetings and workshops with all district waterworks office GI managers are held to listen to the ideas and suggestions of the working-level officials.
Providing GIS user training and user support
We created a user manual of the water supply GIS and distributed it to all users. When the system is upgraded, or new functions are added, the person in charge from the GI Division and system developers visit each district waterworks office and provide training on how to use the new system. In addition, a bulletin board is created within the system to respond quickly to any and all user grievances. Moreover, real-time, remote-controlled support via online network is provided upon request.
Switching to an absolute measurement system that utilizes the World Geodetic System ensures accuracy of information
The switch from offset survey scheme using nearby geographic features to the absolute measurement method following the World Geodetic System -- which utilizes concepts such as public reference points (survey monuments) and city reference points -- has contributed to increasing the accuracy of the underground facilities’ spatial information. Newly installed pipes must now be measured before the ground is filled above them (Provisions on Public Survey). Existing pipes are surveyed using appropriate equipment depending on the depth of the facility and the material it is made of.

Providing rigorous guidance and monitoring to prevent safety accidents
On July 22, 2011, a worker died of asphyxia while surveying an underground water pipe in Namyeong-dong, Seoul, and two of his co-workers developed serious medical conditions. After the incident, which was caused by poor safety management, regulations on working in a closed, underground area were added to the Provisions on Public Survey. We now provide safety education to all personnel working at the site and guide and monitor them in abiding by the safety standards.

Policy Experience & Outcome

Water supply management capability is improved with higher-quality geographic information system
By switching from GIS and from a C/S-based model to a web-based one, we have laid the groundwork for the mobile operation of the system. As such, we strive to respond rapidly to the latest technological developments as we implement the GIS project. We also made the system more useful by adding new functions such as GIS editing program, thematic map management system that allows users to search the GI under different themes, and drawing management system for the integrated management of as-built drawings. Moreover, errors in the existing water supply facility information are constantly being corrected using city reference points (survey monuments) and GPS, contributing to improving the quality of our administrative service.
Strict adherence to the Provisions on Public Survey and public survey evaluations led to stronger public confidence in the information
Water supply facility is one of the seven most critical underground facilities of the city. The survey and measurement of water supply facilities are categorized as “public survey (underground measurement)” in the <Act on Measurement, Hydrographic Survey, and Land Registration Record>. Public survey must be conducted in accordance with the Provisions on Public Survey stipulated by the National Geographic Information Institute in the <Enforcement Rule of the Act on Measurement, Hydrographic Survey, and Land Registration Record> and certified through the Korea Association of Surveying & Mapping‘s public survey evaluation. Thus, in 2005, we started the “Water Supply GIS DB Accuracy Improvement Project” and went through the evaluation to gain public confidence for our GI.
Implementation of the World Geodetic System and data standardization provided a basis for conversion and integration with other management systems
The World Geodetic System is the worldwide standard coordinate system that we adopted to make our location information more accurate. The introduction of a standard coordinate system enabled dual or cross-analysis with maps in other systems, since all the maps use the same coordinates. Data structure, analysis method, and design were also standardized so that they can be transferred among different systems. All in all, systems with overlapping functions and themes can now be integrated with each other. Ultimately, such conversion and integration of systems can lead to value creation.
Leak incidents caused by pipe users were reduced
The water supply GIS provides the exact location of water pipes to nearby road, subway, or other construction sites to ensure that they do not hit the pipes. Such led to the reduction of leak incidents caused by pipe users.
Consequently, problems such as water interruption and rusty water were greatly reduced, and more citizens can now enjoy Seoul’s healthy and tasty tap water, Arisu.
In case of leak, the exact leak spot can be excavated using location and properties information collected through the “Water Supply GIS DB Accuracy Improvement Project.” This system has reduced the number of excavated sites and the maintenance cost. Not only that – since accurate location information enabled rapid excavation after the leak, the duration of water interruption was minimized, and public confidence in the city‘s waterworks was restored.

Policy Evaluation

The factors contributing to the successful adoption of water supply GIS as an efficient management tool can be summarized into the following:
First, the national and city governments’ strong interest and effort in spatial information policies
The central Korean and Seoul Metropolitan governments created the “Basic Plan for National Spatial Data Policy” and “Basic Plan for the Seoul Geographic Information System,” respectively, to lay the groundwork for the scientific and systematic management of urban infrastructure using GIS. They also devised steps of policies to allow the utilization of spatial information for diverse purposes. As a result, standard spatial information collection and processing procedures were created. Moreover, the two governments’ generous financial support in the initial stage contributed to the stable introduction of the system.
Second, the expertise of the responsible division
The Office of Waterworks’ GI division is a highly specialized branch consisting of a total of seven personnel -- spatial information specialists (with the relevant master’s degree or technical expertise), seasoned civil servants with over 10 years’ experience at district waterworks offices, and working-level officials for system establishment. We also store and manage all documents created as a result of the project in an organized manner. By keeping a guideline and a manual on the division‘s responsibilities, we ensure that there is no vacuum even in case of any personnel change.
Third, the active participation of system users
Users of the water supply GIS include working-level officials of district waterworks offices or facility managers at the Waterworks Office headquarters. They participate in user training so that they can fully understand and utilize the system. Moreover, they continue to express interest and provide suggestions about the system via online bulletin board, phone, e-mail, or user meetings.

Applicability of the Policies

Starting with the major metropolitan governments, many large municipalities have implemented water supply GIS projects since 1995 when the first National GIS (NGIS) initiative kicked off. As of now, most municipalities, regardless of size, have their own water supply GIS up and running.
Among them, Seoul’s GIS project is relatively larger in size and has been carried out gradually over several years, allowing the city to build unique experience in the process. As a result, various organizations including the Gwangju Metropolitan Government are seeking Seoul’s advice on the water supply GIS establishment process and maintenance know-how.
The system can also be passed on to developing regions of the world such as Southeast Asia and Latin America as an exemplary case.


What are the main functions of the water supply GIS?
The water supply GIS consists of four main parts: water supply GIS, GIS editing program, drawing management system, and thematic map system. Detailed functions of the four parts can be found below.
How is a water supply facility database created?
Creating a water supply facility DB starts with a survey request and order to initiate the project. It is then followed by planning and preparation, due diligence/exploration/survey, data input, data editing, public survey evaluation, and announcement of survey results. The procedure is illustrated in detail in the diagram below: