Community Engagement

SMUD mapping tool aids investment in under-resourced areas

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has developed and released a mapping tool that can help focus investments in under-resourced communities.

The Sustainable Communities Resource Priorities Needs Map incorporates several layers, including education, tree canopy, electric vehicle charging, food deserts, public transportation information, as well as a variety of economic government data, in an interactive format and covers SMUD’s entire territory.

While the map can be used by anyone, SMUD’s target audience is community members and partners. “The tool helps to identify key areas that are lacking in access to education, healthcare, employment and at high risk of environmental factors,” Arlen Orchard, SMUD’s CEO and general manager, said in a statement. “This tool will help optimize our efforts in neighborhoods that are most in need so we can collectively create healthy, more sustainable communities.”

SMUD developed the map internally with data access assistance from its partners, the University of California-Davis, the Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and other local agencies and non-profit organizations.

With its partners, the developers collected data from a variety of sources, including Opportunity Zones, Promise Zone Designation data, SB 535 Disadvantaged Communities data, federal poverty level data, Designated Medically Underserved Areas, Healthy Sacramento Coalition Health Equity Index, Vulnerable Communities Climate Change Index, and CalEnviroScreen 3.0 Environmental Justice Map.

“By being open sourced, it gives community members tools to better understand the needs of their community and better advocate in alignment with the needs,” SMUD spokesperson Lindsay VanLaningham said.

SMUD anticipates a variety of uses for the mapping tool. Internally SMUD could use it for prioritizing the roll-out of its integrated resource planning process, development of electric vehicle electrification infrastructure and alignment with various funding programs, such as federal grants targeting electric vehicle charging in under-resourced communities. “The map tells a better and more wholistic story about where the need is locally and gives us a competitive advantage,” Jose Bodipo-Memba, director of sustainable communities at SMUD, said. “The map allows us to invest our resources where they are needed most.”

Additionally, regional agencies and for-profit funders could use the mapping tool to help focus program investments for under-resourced communities. “We think community members will use it to help champion local projects that help close disparity gaps,” Bodipo-Memba said.

“This interactive tool is more important now than ever given the limited resource capacity caused by the recent pandemic,” Bodipo-Memba said in a statement. “Studies show the current pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on under-resourced communities. This tool provides important data needed to identify and positively impact communities of concern.”