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GIS – A Changing Landscape

Posted by Gerco Hoogeweg on August 18, 2016

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been around for over 40 years. During this time, technology has evolved from massive servers to desktop computers and now to the web and mobile devices. These technological changes also transform the way in which we conduct our GIS work.

At Waterborne, desktop-based GIS analysis has been a primary focus for our projects for over 17 years. Using a variety of geoprocessing tools and extensions, we can address a multitude of questions, such as watershed-level landscape characterization, mapping and analysis of monitoring data, travel time assessment for personal care products moving through sewer systems, spatio-temporal assessments for pesticide detections in watersheds and species habitat assessments and development in support of threatened and endangered species assessments.

The spatio-temporal assessments represent a particular specialty for Waterborne GIS experts. These assessments focus on finding combinations of land-use patterns, rainfall events and application timings to determine if high concentrations of pesticides can be found in surface water. Using the Cropland Data Layer for land use and NEXRAD radar data for rainfall, we can start narrowing down the conditions under which runoff events may occur. Projects like these are conducted at a very small watershed-scale level, as many different combinations of land use, rainfall, application timing and application location need to be investigated.

GIS is also frequently used to generate input data for models, particularly to develop local input data for PRZM, RIVWQ, SWAT or GeoPEARL (see map). Waterborne has focused considerable effort to develop pan-European modeling frameworks to address pesticide leaching across the continent. In such efforts, the best available data (land use, soils, climate) are combined and all unique combinations are determined. GIS is fast for mapping and spatial assessments, but Waterborne uses industry standard databases for handling extensive datasets to process information in a timely fashion.


With the harmonization of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines for terrestrial dissipation, GIS Crosswalks have increasingly become more important. For example, under the new guidance, if users can demonstrate that Terrestrial Field Dissipation (TFD) sites in the United States match European conditions at the ecoregion level, the number of TFD studies may be limited or not needed at all. The final version of this tool was released in February 2016 and it will be interesting how regulatory agencies will handle these crosswalks.

Waterborne is using web-based GIS for a variety of projects. At the simplest implementation, thematic maps focus on a single subject. For example, soils with application restrictions (e.g. www.arpinfo.com) or the location of soils that adhere to selected criteria. More often, web-maps are used to relay information that is too detailed for a hard copy map or contain many iterations on the same map, such as determining runoff of multiple pesticides across a country. In more complex instances, websites are used to provide detailed information on grower statistics or suitability projects. In the most complex implementation, websites are being used as a front-end for applications that require input and eventually run in the background, such as www.iSTREEM.org. With current web-technology, basic maps and feature rich interfaces can easily be configured and created in a secure environment without the need for cloud storage.


Mobile GIS is a very exciting development. The increased use of smart phones and mobile devices has made internet access unparalleled. Many web-based applications and specific maps now rely on responsive maps. But, viewing information is only part of it. Collecting information is the next big wave. With easy-to-use development packages such as AppStudio and AppBuilder, programmers can quickly develop user-friendly applications. What does this mean for Waterborne? Applications can be used to collect crop information and define the field boundaries simultaneously. Overall, the impacts of technological advances to the landscape of GIS allows for improved user experience and continued enhancement of Waterborne’s GIS offerings.

Waterborne uses GIS across all of our markets, most notably for crop protection, veterinary medicines, wastewater and water assements and home and personal care products. Advancements in GIS allows us to better serve our clients and we continue to evolve with new technologies.



If you have any questions about our GIS capabilities, contact Gerco Hoogweg, Lead & Manager of GIS and Data Technologies, at hoogewegg@waterborne-env.com.