An analysis of benefits from use of geographic information systems by King County Washington (2012)


The subject of this study is the use of GIS within King County by county agencies. King County has approximately 14,000 employees and in 2010 its annual budget was over 4 billion dollars. The King County GIS Center with 28 professional GIS Staff provides GIS services to all county agencies.

Geographical scope

King County Washington, United States

Non-quantified impacts

The use of GIS within the county has been hugely beneficial. The estimates below assume that the quality and usefulness of the GIS reports remain at the same level as pre-GIS. In reality, it is expected that the value of GIS-produced outputs is almost certainly higher than comparable outputs the County has produced in years prior to the implementation of GIS technology. The benefits were broken down into benefits from:

  1. Cost savings due to more efficient production of original output, and
  2. Benefits generated from increased productivity beyond original production level.


The survey estimates are likely to be lower bound estimates, since complete cost data and incomplete-benefit data was available (due to incomplete surveys). Therefore, true net benefits are likely less than estimated, but not a great deal so given the partial capture of the benefits.

Quantifiable impacts

Analysis of the survey responses indicates that overall use of GIS – compared to not having GIS technology – had a net benefit of approximately USD 180 million for the year 2010.

With regards to the return on investment by the department in 2010, using the more conservative estimates:

  • The department of Natural Resources and Parks is estimated to benefit USD 87.44 million per year from having GIS technology.
  • The Wastewater Treatment Division had an estimated benefit of USD 54.45.
  • The Department of Transportation had an estimated benefit USD 18.76 million.
  • The Department of Assessment had an overall USD 2.7 million loss – seems to be driven by reduction in benefits from cost savings.


Find more information about the article at:


Study type

Cost-benefit analysis

Economy sector

Water, Infrastructure (Transport), Public Sector Local Government, Environment