What is a Geographic Information System?

A Geographic Information System (GIS) is “an organized collection of computer hardware, software, geographic data, and personnel designed to efficiently capture, store, update, manipulate, analyze, and display all forms of geographically referenced information – information about place.” (Understanding Geographic Information Systems. Environmental Systems Research Institute)

Why a Commission GIS?

The Commission’s GIS was started in 1989 through funding by the New Hampshire Legislature providing each of the nine Regional Planning Commissions with GIS hardware, software, and staff training. The purpose in establishing a GIS at each of the Commissions was:

  1. To promote the use of GIS as a planning tool at the local and regional levels,
  2. To extend the utility and availability of the State GIS Data Archive (New Hampshire GRANIT System) to the local level, and
  3. To develop knowledge and understanding of GIS at the Commission level to be passed along to municipalities when they begin to develop their own GIS applications.

The Commission’s GIS is used as a support to the work program which consists of transportation planning, natural resources planning, local assistance, economic development and community development block grant administration. In addition to serving a support role to the Commission, the Commission’s GIS is involved in working with local municipalities, State agencies, education institutions, non-profits and the general public on providing data management and mapping.

In addition to using information from the NH GRANIT System, the Commission’s GIS acquires and develops GIS digital data from Federal, State, and local entities for use in our work program, as well as for project specific activities. Even though many different data layers exist in the NH GRANIT System, scale, age and the availability of some of the GRANIT data make it imperative that additional data is developed and that the existing information is continually updated and maintained.

Services Provided by the Commission’s GIS:

The Commission GIS can generate maps at various sizes and scales with geographic information pertinent to areas within the Southwest Region. These maps are produced using professional GIS software and printed on a large format color printer. The Commission’s GIS can produce map products for a variety of applications and uses. Whether for Town meeting, a Planning, Zoning, Board of Selectmen, or Conservation Commission presentation, supporting information for the Town’s Master Plan, or for an inventory of the Town, the Commission’s GIS can provide information in a professional and user friendly format.

In cases where the digital data needed does not exist in the Commission’s GIS digital data library, automation services can be provided. These services can include: the automation of tax parcel maps, zoning maps, road conditions, open space, etc. In addition to the map information, attribute information can also be created. Some examples of attribute information might be the tax assessor’s data tables “connected” to the map or water quality information for waterbodies and watercourses.

The Commission’s GIS can also provide database management services. These services can include the development of database entry programs, report generation, or database updating procedures.

For purpose of conducting geographic or spatial analyses, the Commission’s GIS uses professional GIS and database management software. The results can then be presented in a variety of formats (i.e. maps, transparencies, web graphic files, etc.) for use in meetings, brochures, newsletter, Master Plans, or world-wide web pages.