Maps of pipe networks
December 1, 2009 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Pipe-filter: Where can I find maps of pipe networks in US cities?

I'm doing some research on exploring patterns that result from the physical infrastructure of US cities. I'm curious if anyone knows of any sources of data that show where water and waste-water pipes are located (preferably in shapefile format).The specific city does not matter.

I have explored ESRI's free data; Googling,, and other random sites which have not resulted in any information. I realize this is not common information, but thought it was worth asking the venerable hive-mind for suggestions.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry if this seems too obvious, but have you called any city GIS or Public Works departments directly? I just checked my city's website, and they will release shapefiles of utilities, but they charge, and they require some paperwork (perhaps to ensure that your schemes are not too nefarious) first.

Not all cities have accurate mapping of underground utilities, of course, but I can't imagine it taking many phone calls to find a friendly GIS department that will give you that data free or for a reasonable charge. If you are overseas this will be trickier, since we all know that the terrorists are lurking Out There, so you may have more hoops to jump through to get the data released.
posted by Forktine at 8:33 AM on December 1, 2009

Contact the city planning department directly. Most don't post a lot of information about their utilities online, but do make it available on request. There may be a nominal fee to collect the specific information you want, but if you explain it's for a school project they may give you a break. You might have better luck with a small town, rather than a big city.

I work in water and wastewater, so if you have specific questions, feel free to memail.
posted by electroboy at 8:35 AM on December 1, 2009

Here's some possible sources for data, including this link to the GIS page of Frederick County, Maryland. They appear to provide water and sewer layers for download.
posted by electroboy at 8:39 AM on December 1, 2009

Where I've worked, they will make available the basic GIS layers (land use, zoning, plats, etc) but NOT make available maps of critical infrastructure. Homeland security will be their defense when you ask why, but really they just don't want kids getting in the storm drains or what have you. They also like to keep that stuff pretty close to the chest so as to have a secret stick to beat developers over the head with when it comes time to negotiate.....

I'd call GIS departments directly, preferably the person lowest down the org chart you can find, since they're less jealous of the data.
posted by paanta at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions - I have not called anybody yet. As cities sprawl over many counties, I was hoping to avoid getting it at a county by county level but I think this seems like the only option.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:06 AM on December 1, 2009

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