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Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia
Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia

How GIS Benefits WV

So much information at our fingertips in business, public service, research, and recreation has a geographic component to it. The benefits of geospatial technology as a decision-support tool span across many disciplines and types of users. Geospatial thinking is becoming increasingly important in a world that is becoming more connected and dependent upon processing and communicating high-volume information in complex ways. Expanding, maintaining, and enhancing the use of GIS technology throughout the state is critical for West Virginia's future.

West Virginia is already benefiting from GIS in various ways, and many more benefits are possible. Explore the topics below to discover some of the applications of GIS, and please check back in the future for additional examples, content, and applications related to the benefits of GIS for West Virginia.

Outline of GIS Benefits

Tracking Programs

A picture is worth a thousand words, and geospatial technology combines the strength of visual communication with access to information and analysis. From comparing results of educational programs statewide, to evaluating recovery of abandoned mine lands, to following real-time election results, to examining service areas for broadband coverage across West Virginia, GIS provides a powerful tool for communicating and tracking the status and results of programs across any geographic area.

Impact Analysis

If a West Virginia hospital closes, how will the access patterns for emergency care be affected? In what areas would logging activities have the least impact on endangered species? In a flooding event, which residences are most at risk? GIS technology can be utilized to explore these questions with spatial modeling. Both known information and best available estimates can be integrated in spatial modeling to predict the level of impact across a geographic area from an event or circumstance. This information can be used to target or avoid areas, providing guidance for more efficient decision-making.

Business Decisions 

In this competitive world, businesses need to optimize their investments and use all available information to make the best decisions possible. GIS is a critical tool for business, from determining optimal routes for utilities that minimize disturbance and maximize efficiency, to selecting optimal facility locations by considering consumer demographics, site characteristics, and available workforce (as PDF). GIS analysis can provide a competitive edge both to businesses and to the communities of which they are a part.


Geospatial technology is an important component of planning and managing information related to transportation features throughout the state. From determining and meeting the transportation needs of rapidly developing regional economies, to efficiently routing traffic in emergency situations or to reduce fuel costs, to managing the maintenance of roads, bridges, railways, and waterways, GIS provides practical analytical power to the task of keeping the state's transportation systems efficient and safe.

Safety and Security 

In preparing for or responding to an emergency situation, critical decisions must be made upon which lives depend. Utilizing GIS to anticipate challenges and organize the response to emergency situations, provide optimal response routes for E-911, better protect infrastructure and resources critical to homeland security, and analyze crime patterns to optimize patrols are all ways that geospatial technology can protect and prepare West Virginia.

Community Planning 

Geospatial technology provides a tool for optimizing community development at the neighborhood, municipal, county, regional, to the statewide scale. Records of land ownership, locations of structures, roads, and utilities, designated and planned green spaces, and other community resources can be integrated using GIS to explore trends in community growth, promote efficient development patterns, and market real estate investment opportunities.

Population Trends 

Which areas of West Virginia are growing the fastest and how much has population changed in the last 5 years? Which counties have the oldest population per capita? How have cancer incidence rates changed in the last decade by region? GIS is a simple and effective tool for communicating and analyzing geographic trends in populations for various disciplines in a way that tables and charts are unable to.

Resource Management 

GIS technology provides a robust method for inventorying, managing, and optimizing West Virginia’s abundant natural resources as well as other resources throughout the state. From coal reserves, oil and gas wells, and timber and freshwater resources, to infrastructure, cultural landmarks, workforce availability and tourist attractions, the location, quantity, and characteristics of various resources can be evaluated in order to better manage them both in the present and into the future.

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