Government Use of GPS: EPA Projects (Scale and GIS, Part 4)

Infrastructure is another intriguing dimension of such government agency interventions through GIS projects and platforms. To this end, the EPA’s Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) models rainfall effects in urban settings. EPA describes the platform operations thusly:

The runoff component of SWMM operates on a collection of subcatchment areas on which rain falls and runoff is generated. The routing portion of SWMM transports this runoff through a conveyance system of pipes, channels, storage/treatment devices, pumps, and regulators. SWMM tracks the quantity and quality of runoff generated within each subcatchment, and the flow rate, flow depth, and quality of water in each pipe and channel during a simulation period comprised of multiple time steps.

This treats routing and navigating within GIS in a different sense than what we are conventionally used to – as a matter of pipes and devices rather than a matter of transit – through infrastructure. In doing so, it reveals the politics of scaling infrastructure; choosing a different scale of analysis for such a system can yield staggeringly different findings.

As such these platforms are just as much about scaling the nonhuman as it is scaling the human. Within these platforms, questions arise of how closely one should broach the details of infrastructure, or even in the case of previously discussed GIS platforms, how to enlist actors like the weather and the allocation of resources to speak toward policy decisions. In the case of the latter, environmental justice emerges as a core issue in these human-nonhuman relations depicted through GIS platforms.

To this end, the EPA also offers EJSCREEN, a GIS platform rightfully aimed toward investigating issues of environmental justice. The EPA’s website heralds the platform for providing “‘EJ indexes,’ which can be used for highlighting places that may be candidates for further review, analysis, or outreach as the agency develops programs, policies and other activities.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 4.31.31 PM

In establishing a new metric for a critical social issue (much like other platforms I covered in my Orientations, Metrics and Opportunity post), EJSCREEN prioritizes the effects of human-nonhuman relations in areas deemed the most hazardous. As such, in some ways, it scales the issue of environmental justice itself, zoning in on areas most worthy of attention. Thus, in scaling the involved actors and contexts in relation to this issue, EJSCREEN seeks to construct a great deal of the discourse surrounding the issue as part of its management intervention.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s