Cartographic GIS standards adopted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry : a case study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) acquired a Geographic Information System (GIS) in 1987. The purpose of acquiring such a system was to aid the department in implementing their water resource management strategy of that time. On acquiring this system it was well recognised that the GIS would need to communicate geo-referenced information, generated by analysis and modelling to decision makers by means of graphic representations or maps (Olivier et al., 1990: 14 73). Towards the end of 1990 it became apparent that the department needed to standardise cartographic output of this system. Maps on the same theme, which were produced at different sites were not comparable and graphic communication was not effective. A consultant was appointed, who, in conjunction with the departmental digital cartographer, established criteria and standards which were flexible enough to accommodate mapping on a wide variety of themes. These standards were implemented, to a limited extent in July 1994. Standards were set for map encoding, map content and map composition. This report investigates how effective these standards have been. The effectiveness of these standards have been measured in terms of the five recognised cartographic design principles that have been identified by Robinson et al. (1984), Wood (1992) and Dent (1990). These include the clarity and legibility of maps, the distinction between figure and ground, the hierarchical organisation of mapped information, the visual contrast of marks on maps and the visual balance or layout of the finished map. A sample of maps made after the implementation of cartographic standards at the department was compared to a sample of comparable maps made prior to the implementation of these standards. In a large organisation like the department the success of such standards do not depend on the standards alone but also on their implementation. Implementation related problems were identified by comparing standardised maps with the standards. The outcome of the investigation proved that the effectiveness of graphic communication had indeed improved albeit to a varying degree. In most cases the standards were adequate and the main problems actually lay with their implementation. Recommendations on the implementation and the few aspects of the standards that require amendment have been included in this report.

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