How big data is shaping Hamilton's stormwater management systems

Jennifer Howe, Digital Content Manager

How big data is shaping Hamilton's stormwater management systems | Morphum Environmental

Last year, Morphum Environmental began developing a stormwater master plan for Hamilton City Council, employing an enormous array of existing data. The stormwater master plan will provide the underlying direction for the future of stormwater management in Hamilton.

What is big data?

While the term “big data” is not a precisely defined one, most experts agree that it refers to datasets which meet some benchmark around volume and complexity, and those for which novel approaches and tools are required to make effective use of the data. Rather than simply referring to a data set itself, “big data” invokes the specific challenges around managing and using data, and the innovative techniques and technologies which are needed to do this.

Over recent decades, the amount of data in the world and the rate at which it can be collected have grown enormously. As a result, the focus has shifted to how we access, understand, store and use this data rather than simply how we gather it. Key challenges in big data include visualisation, integration of different data formats, accessing and querying specific sections of data, and sharing the right data with the right stakeholders.

How does the stormwater master plan use big data?

The stormwater master plan collates a broad range of environmental information, converting it to geospatial data that can be used for city-wide analysis. The challenge has been to process this data in the best possible way, so that the datasets are useful and accessible to council staff. Importantly, the plan considers how the data may be updated in real time as Hamilton City Council’s available data and stormwater project database grows.

Hamilton City has an estimated 168 kilometres of streams, and over 14,000 underground pipes and culverts totalling more than 675 kilometres in length. Included as outputs of the plan are geospatial datasets, peer reviewed methodologies, catchment map books, an interactive stormwater works programme database and a detailed summary of the project, context and outcomes. The plan uses a total of 20 geospatial layers, including an overland flow path layer, a building footprints layer and forecasted percentages of impervious surface across Hamilton’s catchments.

Why does Hamilton need big data?

Rather than providing a set of static reports, the focus has been on constructing a collection of dynamic and interactive tools that can be updated and developed through the catchment management process and future master plans. The geospatial and mapping outputs have been utilised to provide a snapshot of the existing management of stormwater networks in Hamilton.

The stormwater master plan will help inform Hamilton’s ten year plan budgets by identifying investigation projects and capital works to comply with the City’s comprehensive stormwater discharge consent conditions. It will also support the protection and enhancement of the environment through the identification of proposed stormwater treatment locations, erosion mitigation priorities and naturalisation opportunities.

What does the future hold for Hamilton’s stormwater management systems?

From the outset, the stormwater master plan was developed so that at any point in the future, Hamilton City Council can take complete ownership of the datasets by involving key information services and corporate data managers in the process. This gives them the option of developing and building on the provided tools themselves, rather than relying on third parties to produce the same reports on a frequent basis. If established, this could mean significant future cost savings to Hamilton City and improved efficiency with respect to project management and prioritisation.

As it stands, the stormwater master plan provides the basis for an ongoing stormwater works programme in Hamilton. It provides a framework to inform future planning based on integrated catchment management plans in a cohesive way. One of the main deliverables of the stormwater master plan is input into the city’s ten year plan, which aims to close data gaps and create resilient processes for stormwater management. Many of the 160 identified projects include conducting site visits and feasibility investigations within the first three years to inform Hamilton’s future capital works and planning initiatives.

Jennifer Howe

Digital Content Manager