How GIS systems can fight the climate crisis

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Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey famously starred in a Superbowl LVI commercial asking us to focus our technology on bettering Earth rather than escaping to other worlds: “So while others look to the Metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and restore ours.” He has a point.

Today, we’re all on the front lines of climate change with unprecedented drought conditions, destructive wildfire “seasons,” more frequent and brutal winter storms, and other severe departures from “normal” conditions. California is drying, New England is flooding, and Texas is freezing. What remains is the infrastructure necessary to adapt to changing ecosystems. Communities across the country face new problems that need to be solved. And there are amazing, unsung technologies to help us meet those challenges. 

I am fortunate to be part of a team at a public utility (San Jose Water) using one of those technologies: geographic information systems (GIS). Every day we work to evolve water safety and public resource stewardship for over a million people in the heart of Silicon Valley. We hope that someday our blueprints will be integrated across the country.

GIS technology is helping us to modernize operations as well as monitor and manage the large infrastructure web of San Jose Water’s underground piping. This large system of data collection and analysis tools advances conservation, agility, and maintenance capabilities in a myriad of ways.

GIS thinking helps bring data to life because it unlocks spatial context, ...

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