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County Improves Watershed Monitoring Tools & Reporting, Engages Community during Population Growth

Pierce County, WA, USA

At a Glance

Outdated database constrained the stormwater utility's ability to store growing amount of data and differing data formats, limiting both usage of watershed data and public accessibility. Modern database harmonizes data types, enables deeper data analysis, and invites data exploration by residents.

Problem Addressed

With the hiring boom in Seattle in recent years, the Puget Sound region was welcoming as many as 200 people a day during its peak. Water quality has declined in most areas of Pierce County as the population and development have grown over the past century. The most common water quality concerns in Pierce County streams are high levels of bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus, elevated summer temperatures and low dissolved oxygen concentrations.

Pierce County wanted to manage population growth and not compromise the quality of life for its residents and businesses. Like many utilities, Planning and Public Works had legacy databases of long-term hydrologic and water quality data that could not automatically migrate data from a variety of sources, verify data or make data easily accessible to users. The once effective systems were pushing 20 years. Servers and custom-built databases were no longer supported.

A new solution was needed to address the department’s goals of preventing polluted stormwater from entering the water supply in addition to reducing flood risk. Moreover, a system compatible with evolving technologies would help the County maintain public safety, meet regulatory requirements and enhance public outreach.

Pierce County Planning & Public Works used/is using KISTERS' Water Information System (WISKI) to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

WISKI enables local government's to future-proof water data storage and processing. The flexible architecture grows with an agency's needs in terms of data volume and technological innovation. The system was selected because it enables the County to meet future data needs without addition cost from the developer.

In the present, the solution enables the County to use limited resources with maximum efficiency. Data of different time steps are consolidated into one repository that also manages metadata, ensuring more data integrity and discoverability by environmental analysts and planners.

As more and diverse water quality data are collected, automated quality checks test new information streaming into today’s system, which automatically records all data transactions. A full audit log traces software users authorized to edit erroneous data points and why and when changes were made.

APIs enable multi-department data consumers to use GIS as well as python scripting to analyze data and interpret information without requirement to learn an unfamiliar software.


  1. Staff environmental scientists & specialists are able to integrate hydrological, water quality sampling and biosurvey datasets -- increasing data usability and doing deeper analysis.
  2. Time-savings and higher level of data quality result from application of standardized quality assurance and quality control procedures. Both automated and manual protocols are used.
  3. Ability to enrich public outreach and engagement efforts with the addition of an interactive web portal; visitors can filter, view tables and graphs, and export approved data
  4. Scientists & modelers who inform decisions now face fewer demands on time from data loss, silos or outdated IT. Instead, they focus on detecting and responding to environmental threats.

Something Unique

The neighboring stormwater utility Snohomish County Surface Water Management (SWM) also uses the solution, so peers are able to discuss regional challenges & share best software practices.

Who Should Consider?

Water agencies near fast-growing metros who have diverse water quality monitoring program data stored separately and unable to efficiently/fully use info for public safety & engagement as well as regulation.

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