Newsletter: New Data Collection App Saves Time and Money

Electronic devices are replacing clipboards and improving the way Michigan communities do their business.

A smart phone or an iPad, combined with an innovative online app, is an example of applying low cost software with electronics to collect data on lead and copper service inventories that must be completed by January 1, 2025.

“The survey app we’re using is very convenient, very user-friendly,” said Lance Cherven, Village of Roscommon Public Works Director. “The guys that are using it in the field really like it.”

Roscommon, like every water supplier in the state, is required by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to complete a comprehensive distribution system materials inventory under the state’s new lead and copper regulations.

Using the new app, Roscommon’s DPW staff is efficiently collecting the data to meet this unfunded mandate. The app saves time which enables staff to work on other department needs.

The app is a complete, customizable solution for creating, sharing and analyzing information collected in the field. Features include:
Minimizes paper handling – reducing filing, organizing and compiling handwritten notes
Utilizes existing technology and replaces the clipboard
Is easily customized to meet specific project needs – from zoning/assessing to water services
Allows for photos or other document attachments
Form-based entry – with drop down menus or fill in submission
Integrates with external GPS unit for increased accuracy
Creates reports and provides data for maps

Because the data collection app is part of ESRI ArcGIS Online, DPW staff input information on the spot and the data is automatically stored and saved in a central location. This cloud-based Geographical Information System (GIS) app allows staff to access photos, videos, record drawings, and mapping data both in the field or in an office quickly.

“It’s all just at your fingertips,” said Cherven, who also is using the app for the cross connections program and valve maintenance. “Before we were going out with clipboards and handwriting everything and then having to go back to the office and type the new information into the system.”

“This reduces redundant steps since it’s inputted directly into a database. We can put all the information in there while we’re out in the field. It’s instant. You can see it in real-time or near real-time.”

Once data is entered on the iPad, a little red dot flags it indicating the data has been collected at that location. The information is uploaded to the cloud and synced between mobile and desktop applications.

F&V can help with apps and meeting new service line regulations

Completing a service line inventory is a critical starting point for protecting consumers from lead in drinking water. Under rule changes to the 2018 Safe Drinking Water Act, water suppliers are now required to fully replace all lead service lines on both public and private property.

Putting together an asset management plan that prioritizes replacing those lead service lines is critical for community water suppliers. F&V can work with your community to implement the best data collection solution for your needs, assist in fielding it, provide training for collection and data handling, then integrate the results into your operations.

Data collected using the new app can be put in the GIS and used graphically as a map or in a spreadsheet format or in a database to be used in other software systems.

“I would recommend the app to anybody,” Cherven said. “F&V is very good with GIS and a whole day of training was very, very helpful.”

F&V can also assist communities with low interest financing which is available through the Drinking Water Revolving Fund for lead service line replacement. If you need help with your lead and copper inventories or more information on determining the best GIS solutions, including how to implement hardware/software set up, training and support, contact Ben Kladder at 800.494.5202 or email