CONUS Indian Health Service

IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction Program Support

Straughan is providing GIS program management support to the Indian Health Service’s Division of Sanitation Facilities Construction, which includes 11 regions across the country providing water and sewer services to over 400,000 homes in all 50 states.


Our Approach

Straughan is responsible for analysis and oversight of a five-year GIS program to allow the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) program to better understand where facilities have been installed and the relationships between those facilities and the communities they serve. Program initiatives have included the development of a new geodatabase schema and workflow reviews, meeting of a national GIS area workgroup, assisting with data transfer and development, and establishing training and communication plans, as well as any other ad-hoc tasks that develop. One of these ad-hoc tasks occurred in September 2020 when IHS was tasked with supporting an effort to determine an engineering approach and cost to ensure adequate supply of drinking water and sanitary septic systems for homes in Navajo Nation.

COVID-19 disproportionately impacted Navajo Nation and part of the challenge was due to a lack of water and sewer in many homes. Estimates indicated that as many as 30-40% of the homes do not have running water. With a population exceeding 173,000 on the reservation, there were almost double the number of COVID-19 cases relative to New York or New Jersey at the same time. 844 homes were identified as being deficient with 280 of them being prioritized for improvement as soon as possible. IHS developed a plan to visit as many homes as possible from the list of 844 in a 3-month period. Teams consisting of five engineers would be deployed for a month before being replaced with a new team. The Straughan team had a week to develop a working field application and training materials before the first field crew was deployed which was done through the combination of Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS applications.

The Collector for ArcGIS application allowed for the engineers to draw and identify features at a homesite necessary for inclusion in the final engineering design drawing. A link was built into Collector such that a user could click on a home, have Survey123 open a new survey about the home, and pre-populate certain fields in the Survey. The Survey itself consisted of more than 70 questions and allowed for engineers to take photos, make calculations, and provide sketches. All layers and information within these applications were also configured for offline collection. Many of these homes were in remote locations where field crews would have to park and walk for more than a mile to access them. The Straughan team worked closely with the field crews, regularly refining the applications and training materials over the 3-month period in conjunction with field crew recommendations to ensure efficiency and success of the project.

Check out a recent blog post on that highlights this important work being done by IHS for the Navajo Nation.

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