Understanding Urban Watersheds through Digital Interactive Maps, San Francisco Bay Area, California
Abstract:Dense urbanization has resulted in the “disappearance” of many local creeks in urbanized areas surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Long reaches of creeks now flow in underground pipes. Municipalities and water agencies trying to reduce non-point-source pollution are faced with a public that cannot see and therefore does not understand the interconnected nature of the drainage system or its ultimate discharge to the bay. Since 1993, we have collaborated with the Oakland Museum, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, public agencies, and municipalities to create creek and watershed maps to address the need for public understanding of watershed concepts. Fifteen paper maps are now published (www.museumca.org/creeks), which have become a standard reference for educators and anyone working on local creek-related issues.
We now present digital interactive creek and watershed maps in Google Earth. Four maps are completed covering urbanized areas of Santa Clara and Alameda Counties. The maps provide a 3D visualization of the watersheds, with cartography draped over the landscape in transparent colors. Each mapped area includes both Present and Past (circa 1800s) layers which can be clicked on or off by the user. The Present layers include the modern drainage network, watershed boundaries, and reservoirs. The Past layers include the 1800s-era creek systems, tidal marshes, lagoons, and other habitats. All data are developed in ArcGIS software and converted to Google Earth format. To ensure the maps are interesting and engaging, clickable icons pop-up provide information on places to visit, restoration projects, history, plants, and animals. Maps of Santa Clara Valley are available at http://www.valleywater.org/WOW.aspx. Maps of western Alameda County will soon be available at http://acfloodcontrol.org/.
Digital interactive maps provide several advantages over paper maps. They are seamless within each map area, and the user can zoom in or out, and tilt, and fly over to explore any area of interest. They can be easily customized, for example, adding placemarks or notes. Enrichment information can be added, using clickable icons, without cluttering the map. Best, the maps are fun to use. Digital interactive maps will be another effective tool for enhancing public understanding of urban creeks & watersheds.