NC IT Roadmap - Environment

“Clean air and a healthy environment are vital for a strong economy and a healthier future. So much of North Carolina’s economy relies on protecting our treasured natural resources, and I’m committed to maintaining the quality of their air we breathe for generations to come.” 

- Governor Cooper 

Our environment is one of our most valuable resources, and preserving a healthy environment not only keeps our citizens safe, but contributes to economic development. We have a responsibility to protect our environment, air quality, and water quality, to ensure our residents live healthy fulfilling lives.  

We are leveraging technology in new ways every day in order to protect our environmental resources, but also to improve internal efficiencies in our regulatory agencies and to provide new information to the people of North Carolina.  


The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is one of our main environmental regulatory agencies. DEQ currently issues over 230 types of permit and reviews over 515,000 permits per year. Most of these permit types follow processes that are either manual and labor intensive or utilize older technology to process. DEQ is working to streamline and improve these processes before ultimately moving them to an electronic CRM system using the latest workflow and reporting technology.

This initiative will provide: 

  • An online portal that customers can use to apply, track, and pay for their permit(s) online.  
  • An online searchable database that both DEQ and customers can use to view permit details and compliance matters associated with permits. 
  • A streamlined permitting process with workflow improvements prior to the design of the automated solution. 
  • Reduced backlog of permits within DEQ through efficiency improvements. 
  • Improved communication and transparency through the use of searchable database and improved outreach efforts that will maintain an open dialogue between DEQ and its stakeholders.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

DEQ will continue to expand its GIS work to provide efficient, straight-forward, and easily navigable department data to the people, businesses, and organizations of North Carolina. The two areas the department would like to build upon are:  

Emergency and Environmental Management: During Hurricane Florence, DEQ deployed an event tracker that captured environmental event information from internal and external users. This information gave DEQ and NC residents access to information that they have never been able to leverage before, enabling DEQ to assign response teams more quickly and allowing the public to access the information for situational awareness. DEQ will continue to build upon this model for future remedial and response efforts across the state. 

Environmental Justice: This effort will show how communities are impacted by environmental effects from multiple activities. It will allow communities and towns to show the impact that properly permitted and controlled entities can have when they are built near one another. DEQ is calling this cumulative impact. Communities with little political or economic leverage will be able to utilize this data to protect their residents’ quality of life. DEQ will create a new GIS product that can show this data spatially, allow better integration between DEQ divisions, and provide more insight within communities and political entities.

Unmanned Aerial Systems

The Division of Marine Fisheries recently piloted a program with UNC Wilmington to use UAS to collect data for the Estuarine Benthic Habitat Mapping (EBHM) program. The use of UAS for data collection eliminated the need for three individuals to spend 750 days in the field manually collecting data on a 7,800 acre site. This is time that can instead be spent analyzing the data collected. The pilot was a huge success and DEQ has identified numerous additional areas where the use of drones will increase efficiencies while providing safety and environmental improvements. This biennium, the four primary areas for the expanded drone program are: 

  • Farm land inspections: These inspections are currently performed manually by a three-person team. The use of drones would save over $400,000 per year in salary, gas and supply costs. 
  • Shellfish leasing: Each application of shellfish leasing must be investigated for shellfish and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV). The drones would be able to perform these inspections quicker and without disturbing the habitat. 
  • Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) monitoring: Drones can accurately map the extend of HABs without exposing staff to the harmful algae. With attachments for sample collection, the use of drones would improve safety, speed and accuracy of reporting. 
  • Rhodamine Dye Studies: Drones would increase the accuracy of tracking the dispersion, timing, and extent of the dye, reducing internal costs of these studies by 50%.