In ecologically rich and fragile Puget Sound, seconds matter when it comes to managing stormwater. After all, an endangered orca and a dwindling salmon population are on the line. Against this backdrop, Kitsap County, Washington has emerged as a model for regional stormwater management.
The county’s stormwater division programs manager, Angela Gallardo, is responsible for source control and project planning within a patchwork of jurisdictions. One of her first initiatives, when she entered her role, was to assess existing technologies and to evaluate the state of the county’s stormwater data. Her goal was to implement a comprehensive and integrated software stack to allow citizens to submit and track requests while providing staff with better data.
“When I came to Kitsap County, one of the first things I requested from our call center was a list of drainage complaints over the prior five years,” said Gallardo. “I needed to see where the complaints were recurring so that I could prioritize projects. The county had, at that time, a 311 system they used, but it wasn’t GIS-based.”
This disconnect meant that though Gallardo had access to years of drainage complaint records, she couldn’t import them into ArcGIS in order to spot trends. She tried to geocode the call center data manually in ArcGIS, but could only resolve four percent of the complaints’ locations.
The initial hurdles that Gallardo faced using the data from the County’s 311 system proved that Kitsap County needed a modern, integrated solution to receive and manage citizen stormwater requests.
In choosing a replacement CRM for Kitsap County, Gallardo wanted to ensure that the selected system would integrate with Cartegraph, the county’s operations management system, and ArcGIS. She also wanted a CRM that offered multi-channel citizen and staff input options.
“We wanted a system that would be simple for residents, staff, and administrators,” said Gallardo. “We had a requirement under our [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] (NPDES) permit to map our assets, so we needed a system that would integrate with ArcGIS. We also wanted to make sure that our staff didn’t have to sign into multiple programs to figure out what was going on out there.”
After an analysis of best-in-class CRM solutions, Gallardo selected SeeClickFix to serve as the keystone of the County’s citizen request and issue reporting processes.
“SeeClickFix partners with Cartegraph and we have a bi-directional integration that utilizes our ArcGIS data and base maps,” said Gallardo. “We use ArcGIS for editing and adding new assets and for analysis for future planning. We use it for planning our basin prioritization right now and our capital facilities planning.”
To make it easy for citizens of all technical capabilities to submit stormwater reports, the County offers three submission channels: their Kitsap1 call center, the Kitsap1 mobile app, powered by SeeClickFix, and a website-based portal also powered by SeeClickFix.
When the Kitsap1 call center receives calls from citizens regarding stormwater issues, the call center staff enters the request into SeeClickFix so that all data is input into the same integrated repository. Kitsap County provides SeeClickFix access to multiple county departments, so even if a citizen calls the wrong department to report a stormwater issue, they’ll still receive a response, and their request will be documented.
“It’s kind of like distributed 311,” said Gallardo. “To keep citizens in the loop about their request, our call center staff takes the caller’s email address so they can follow up with a resolution.”
For digitally-minded citizens, the Kitsap1 mobile app allows citizens to report issues when they are out in the community and spot a problem. The concerned citizen can take a geotagged photo of the problem with their smartphone as part of their submission. The data is automatically sent to Cartegraph, which notifies the stormwater team to investigate the issue by way of a service request.
Kitsap County’s stormwater team also uses SeeClickFix to assist in identifying the source of water body pollutants. The team inspects 7,200 catch basins annually, and oftentimes, the inspection reveals an upstream issue that is creating downstream consequences.
“Our teams find many water quality issues out there,” said Gallardo. “Previously, if there was a problem coming from a private site or a construction site, it would take a lot of staff time to research who was responsible.”
Gallardo recalls a specific investigation in which her team’s use of the SeeClickFix, Cartegraph, and ArcGIS helped to expedite the identification of a pollutant source.
“Now, we have the data we need to see where recurring issues are, like localized flooding."
“We had a crew working at a stream restoration site, and the water coming down the stream was chocolate brown,” said Gallardo. “The team didn’t know if there was a slope blowout somewhere, and it was a pretty long, linear area. It would have taken them a long time to track the source. But they looked at data available on their iPads right in the field and saw within SeeClickFix a series of complaints of turbid water leaving a nearby construction site at the top of the hill.”
According to Gallardo, previously, such complaints would have only been sent to the Department of Community Development, so the stormwater team wouldn’t have known about them.
“With the data inside SeeClickFix, our team red-tagged the site, the construction crew fixed their BMPs [best management practices] and all was good after that.”
As Kitsap County works on ways to address the realities of climate change, they realize their best hope must come from the collection and analysis of good data.
“Now we have the data we need to see where recurring issues are, like localized flooding, which can be worsened by storm intensities and sea-level rise,” said Gallardo. “We can target where we need to add tide gates or upsized pipes or replace a frame and grate catch basin with curve inlets so that water can get into the system more quickly. We can also use the data to prioritize projects. When road, sewer, or other stormwater projects are planned, we can save money by just adding the upgrades to those projects.”
As a result, Kitsap County can achieve its ultimate goal of making better, data-driven decisions for how it protects its environment and its citizens.