- Associated Press - Sunday, October 16, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Bert Curtis said the city of Davis’ water infrastructure is mapped in his head, after working in the public utilities department for more than three decades. Now that map is on the web, and the division director’s employees can find water meters and fire hydrants using an iPad.

“I’ve been here for 36 years, so I can pretty well remember where everything is,” Curtis said. “But I’m eventually going to retire.”

It would cost about $100,000 to hire an engineer to find all the city’s manholes, valves, water and wastewater pipelines and stormwater drains, he said. The Journal Record (https://bit.ly/2duGIhE ) reports that Davis is among five other small cities and rural water districts that have upgraded their maps using modern technology and free assistance from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

The agency’s employees follow city workers and rural water district employees through weed-filled fields, sometimes into backyards, and dig through brush to find all the parts. OWRB staff members gather Global Positioning System coordinates, and later create a web-based map for the municipalities. Money for the project comes from the agency’s revolving funds.

OWRB financial assistance division environmental manager Lindy Clay said she’s first trying to help small communities, which have smaller budgets and a greater need. Often when a public works employee leaves a rural municipality, there isn’t a way to leave the institutional knowledge about the infrastructure.

Logan County Rural Water District No. 3 participated in the pilot project, said clerk Liz Misar. It’s not always easy to find a leaking water line, even if there’s water pooled on the ground, she said. Sometimes water travels through the rocks in the ground and reaches the surface dozens of feet from the line. One of the district’s new employees will be able to use a smartphone or tablet to easily find pipelines, she said.

“This way they can pinpoint it a little better than just digging,” Misar said.

The district probably could not have afforded to do the mapping project without the water board’s help, she said.

Just a few years ago, Curtis said he was the least-tenured employee, with more than 30 years of service. Now most of the nine employees have worked there for five years or less. Though he said he knows where much of Davis’ infrastructure is, sometimes the notes might not be intelligible to others.

“What I inherited is a spiral notebook that says things like, ‘by Homer Deal’s peach tree,’” he said.

While the infrastructure mapping project was important to Davis, it wasn’t otherwise a pressing need.

“People have to get their drinking water, we have to provide fire suppression and we have to put out our wastewater in an environmentally friendly way,” Curtis said. “That’s more important than walking through the weeds and looking for water meters.”

Clay said the water board is mapping water lines for six communities for the fiscal year that began July 1. She said she already has a waiting list for next year.

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