Environmental Information Systems

ESSA has been developing environmental information systems since the company’s founding in 1979. Early work focused on computer tools such as simulation models and decision support systems for natural resource management (e.g., terrestrial and aquatic resources), and
later evolved to include the field of computerized expert systems for environmental impact assessment (EIA). Since the early 1990s, we have been integrating geographic information systems (GIS) and relational databases into our software solutions.

Our objective at ESSA is to provide clients with the customized software and services they need to translate their knowledge and data into improved decision making. Our strength is that we develop our solutions using a unique combination of computer skills and environmental expertise. This approach allows us to fully understand the challenges and requirements of our clients, and to identify, design and develop the best computer tools for meeting these needs. We have used this approach in hundreds of projects around the world, with clients in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.


Services that we provide:

  • user requirements assessment
  • system design
  • system development
  • system implementation
  • GIS analysis
  • Spatial modelling
  • technical documentation
  • training/technology transfer
Technologies that we integrate:

  • computer simulation models
  • relational databases
  • expert systems
  • Web applications
  • GIS – both desktop and web-based
  • remote sensing
  • decision support systems

Selected Projects

Web Portals
Development of an Online Data Portal (ODP) in support of watershed restoration actions designed to rehabilitate the river ecosystem of the Trinity River in northern California. The ODP is is an online, publically accessible site for partner agencies to gather and share information for this science-based restoration program. The site has a Google-like search engine that filters through hundreds of documents, reports, meeting minutes and data packages. Users can share any kind of tabular or graphical data along with XML metadata describing where and how it was collected. More >>
ESSA worked with BC Hydro risk management specialists to design an Environmental Risk Calculator web application and database for estimating the consequences and risk associated with environmental incidents such as spills, floods and entrainment. A secure database was developed in SQL Server, together with all the lookup lists and audit trail features required to manage the incidents and scenarios. ASP.net was used to develop the user interface, with security roles controlling access to the different features within the application. The final system is used daily by staff to calculate the severity of actual incidents and also to estimate the risk associated with potential future events. More >>
GIS Analysis & Tools
ESSA has partnered with the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station to develop the River Bathymetry toolkit. This extension to the popular ArcGIS desktop software allows users to investigate river and floodplain geomorphology. The tool takes a high resolution digital elevation model (DEM) and generates several derived GIS features such as cross sections, Thalwegs and centrelines. From these data, channel metrics are derived such as hydraulic radius, residual pools, wetted area. The RBT is specifically designed for high resolution LiDAR or total station survey elevation data. The RBT is licensed for free and has been downloaded over 700 times from countries all around the World. More >>
The Geomorphic Change Detection (GCD) toolkit was developed in partnership with Professor Joe Wheaton at Utah State University. This ArcGIS extension was original developed for sediment budgeting in rivers, but the basic concept is widely applicable. The tool subtracts two GIS raster surfaces to produce a DEM of Difference and then explicitly represents the associated error using fuzzy inference systems. The error is then incroporated back into the DEM of Difference as a filter to remove areas of change that are considered unreliable. Similar to the RBT, the GCD is an extension to ArcGIS and licensed for free. More >>
Web Mapping
Using a number of spatial ecological data sets and the Vegetation Resources Inventory (VRI), ESSA developed a GIS-based process to calculate key environmental metrics that can be used to track land use change across the whole of British Columbia. An ecological land use classification was generated by combining VRI land cover information with ecological data, a modeled riparian layer, rarity data and landscape context layers. Each unique parcel of land, defined by the input GIS layers, was scored in four categories (land cover, landscape context, rarity, and ecological) using a custom model. A web mapping application was developed, using ArcGIS Server and FLEX, to allow users to explore and interrogate the land metric data. This web-based GIS provides access to hundreds of thousands of parcels quickly and seamlessly. More >>
User Requirements & Information Management Strategy
ESSA is partnering with SNC-Lavalin on the Vietnam Provincial Environmental Governance Project, a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded initiative to develop Industrial Pollution Management (IPM) capacity in Vietnam. The third of three, five year phases, VPEG includes an information management component that is focusing on advancing the organization, sharing and utility of IPM data. ESSA is responsible for assessing the information management need within provincial environmental agencies and then developing a strategy that will fulfill these requirements. This work has involved interviewing government staff and working with local Vietnamese consultants to implement the plan. Much of the work involves capacity development and leverages Vietnamesse expertise to perform training and development software tools for IPM.