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Geographic Information Systems

MSP Pivot Irrigation System Mapping

A team at Washington College completed an analysis of farm irrigation systems in Maryland at the request of the Maryland State Police (MSP) that focused on identifying systems more prone to theft due to various location-based factors. Combining this information with data on where irrigation thefts have already occurred enabled the team to complete a risk analysis for all irrigation systems in Maryland.

When thinking about irrigation systems, many wonder what is so valuable about them. the answer is metal. Most people have heard in the news that there are vandals go into abandoned houses and steal metal pipes, wires, and downspouts to sell as scrap metal. Irrigation systems, like homes, contain valuable metal and use wires for power. Repairing an irrigation system after a theft can cost as much as $10,000, depending on the size of the system.


The goal of this project was to not only help the Maryland State Police, but all law enforcement in Maryland. The majority of irrigation systems are located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the flat land creates a large agricultural industry. With the help of the State Police, the Crime Mapping and Analysis Program (CMAP) was able to obtain the approximate location of every irrigation system that was operated last summer. CMAP then produced a map tailored to each county in the State to help law enforcement understand where systems at risk were in their own jurisdiction. The map was then added to a bulletin that was disseminated to law enforcement.

In addition to the completed analysis, Washington College students are being engaged to enhance the accuracy of the irrigation data. While the location of irrigation systems that operated last summer was extremely valuable, it does not include all systems, and the size of the system and the spatial location is often off by as much as a 1/2 mile. Students are using high resolution ortho-imagery to add any irrigation system that were missed and attribute all irrigation systems with information about their size. Once this process in complete, other students will be able to use actual data on where irrigation thefts have occurred to analyze and determine if there are any factors that may make an irrigation system more prone to theft.