Initialization workshop in the usage of PostGIS vector
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README.md

Workshop PostGIS Vector

This workshop aims to initialize the user in PostGIS using only vector data.


Install PostgreSQL and the extension PostGIS

PostGIS is a spatial database extender for the database management system (DBMS) PostgreSQL. In order to install PostGIS first we need to install PostgreSQL. You can install PostgreSQL from the official website: https://www.postgresql.org/download/ .

After the installation of PostgreSQL we need to install PostGIS extension. In windows you can achieve that using Stack Builder. Once PostGIS is installed, one can activate the spatial extension in a new database with:

CREATE EXTENSION POSTGIS;

If you explore the database you will notice that the schema public is now populated with new tables, views and functions. More information about PostGIS instalation can be found at the official documentation: https://postgis.net/docs/postgis_installation.html

We also recommend a look at PostGIS FAQ: https://postgis.net/docs/PostGIS_FAQ.html


Load data into the database

Assuming you are not accessing an already configured version of the database used in this workshop, you will start by creating a new empty database in your system, after which you will create the postgis extension and then import the following shapefiles: porto_freguesias ; ferrovias and lugares

As an alternative you can restore the postgis_vectors.backup database from this repository, this DB already as all the vectors imported.


Requirements

This workshop assumes a basic knowledge of SQL or Structured Query Language which is the language you use to interact with a PostgreSQL database (or any other relational database). If you are new to SQL we recommend you to follow the W3 Schools course on SQL: https://www.w3schools.com/sql/

Explore the database with QGIS DB Manager

Please use your QGIS DB Manager to explore the vectors inside the schema vectors. It is important to know your data before we start analyzing it. Make sure that first you create a connection to the database as explained here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4pOyVZ3QVs

From now on we assume QGIS is your client application.

If you are a non-Portuguese speaker, here is a quick explanation of the attributes and table names you may see as you follow the workshop:

Freguesia = Parish

Concelho = Municipality

Distrito = District/region

Ferrovia = Railroad

Lugares = Places

Therefore the table vectors.porto_freguesias has all the parishes that exist in the district of Porto, Portugal.


First queries - standard functionality

Example 1 - Select all

This simplest type of query returns all the records and all the attributes of a given table:

SELECT * 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias;

Example 2 - Condition

Most of the time you don't want the whole table, you just want the rows that meet certain criteria. The next query will return all the attributes but only for the parishes that belong to the municipality of Matosinhos:

SELECT * 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE concelho = 'MATOSINHOS';

Example 3 - Ilike

The following query will return the same result as the previous one, but by using ilike instead of the = operator the string matching becomes case UNsensitive:

SELECT * 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE concelho ILIKE 'mAtOsInHoS';

Example 4 - Like Like on the other hand is case sensitive therefore the following query will give zero results.

SELECT * 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE concelho LIKE 'Matosinhos';

Example 5 - Selecting attributes in a query

You may want to have your query returning specific attributes instead of all of them (the * sign) as we have been doing. In the example below we are still getting all the parishes that belong to the municipality of Matosinhos, but we are only interested in knowing a few facts (attributes) about them:

SELECT freguesia, area_ha 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE concelho LIKE 'MATOSINHOS';

Example 6 - Using alias

Alias are a very common way of expressing a query. An alias consists on renaming a table on the fly as in the example below:

SELECT a.freguesia, a.area_ha 
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias AS a
WHERE a.concelho LIKE 'MATOSINHOS';

Note that under the FROM clause we add the AS a , which is saying that on what this particular query concerns, the table we are calling will be known as 'a' and that is why you see an a. prefix whenever the query is referring to rows or attributes that belong to table a. Alias are very useful if your query is calling more than one table as you will soon see.


Calling PostGIS spatial functions

Example 7 - ST_Area

Apart from the geometry columns, so far we have only been doing plain PostgreSQL. We will now start to explore some of the spatial functions offered by PostGIS. A PostGIS function usually takes the form NameOfTheFunction(arguments/inputs) Usually spatial function on PostGIS start with ST_ To demonstrate this principle we will do a simple area calculation. In this example the area will be in meters because the SRID is in meters.:

SELECT a.freguesia, a.area_ha, ST_Area(a.geom)--/10000)::int
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias AS a
WHERE a.concelho = 'MATOSINHOS';

As you can see, the function ST_Area takes one argument - the geometry .

Example 8 - ST_Buffer

Here is another example. This time we call a function that outputs a geometry.

SELECT id, ST_Buffer(geom, 1000)
FROM vectors.ferrovia;

Example 9 - ST_Intersects

A common spatial problem in GIS is to know if two features share space. There are some variants to this problem but we can use the following as a starting point:

SELECT b.geom, b.id
FROM vectors.porto_freguesias as a, vectors.ferrovia as b
WHERE a.concelho ilike 'MATOSINHOS' AND ST_Intersects(a.geom,b.geom);

If you load the results in QGIS, the result might no be exactly what you were expecting - you will get the railroad that intersects the parish of Muro but it is not clipped to the boundaries of the parish because this query only applies a logical test, it does not construct a new geometry. In other words, it returns the features that intersect parish of Muro without changing them.

Example 10 - ST_Intersection

To get the actual geometry that represents the space shared by two geometries (like a Clip operation), we have to use the ST_Intersection function. In this example we will get the railroads that intersect Matosinhos parish.

SELECT b.id, ST_Intersection(b.geom, a.geom) as geom
FROM vectors.porto_freguesias as a, vectors.ferrovia as b
WHERE a.concelho ilike 'MATOSINHOS' --AND ST_Intersects(a.geom,b.geom); 

Run the above query again, but this time uncomment the AND ST_intersects(a.geom,b.geom); by deleting the -- characters and check the consumed time. When we run the ST_Intersection we should always add the ST_Intersects in the were clause, this will make sure we are only computing the intersection were in fact the geometries intersect.


Integration challenge

Time to put together what you have learned so far to solve a spatial problem.

Find all the places that are distanced less than 300m from a railroad Hint: you will have to nest the function ST_Intersects and ST_Buffer under the WHERE clause.

If you manged to solve it, try it with a small variation: Find all the places that are distanced less than 300m from a railroad AND are located within the municipality of Matosinhos.


Working with dynamic data: views and triggers

Example 11 - Create a view

Views are essentially a stored query, which means you can visualize the result of a query at anytime you want without having to type the query again. This is especially useful for complex queries that have to be run frequently over data that is very dynamic (i.e. changes frequently).

To explore this concept we will create a view from the solution to the second integration challenge:

CREATE VIEW close2railroad AS
SELECT a.name, a.geom
FROM vectors.lugares as a, vectors.ferrovia as b, vectors.porto_freguesias as c
WHERE st_intersects(a.geom, ST_Buffer(b.geom, 300)) and c.concelho ilike 'MATOSINHOS' and ST_Intersects(a.geom, c.geom);

You can now load your view into QGIS just like you would any other table. The interesting part however is that if the data behind the query changes, the view will also change accordingly.

Example: lets assume the table lugares is changing frequently. If new points are created closer than 300m to railroad in the municipality of Matosinhos, the view will show those new points without you having to re-run the query!

Dealing with invalid geometries

Although not entirely, for the most part PostGIS complies with the OGC Simple Feature Access standard (http://www.opengeospatial.org/standards/sfa), and it is according to this technical recommendation that PostGIS expects to have the geometries. That is not to say that you cannot have invalid geometries in your database, but if you do some of the spatial functions, PostGIS might not work as expected and yield wrong results simply because PostGIS functions assume that your geometries are valid. Therefore you should ALWAYS make sure that your geometries have no errors. The importance of this check is even greater when multiple users are using/editing the same table.

Since PostGIS version 2.0 there are functions to detect and repair invalid geometries.

Example 12 - ST_IsValid

In order to find invalid geometries we can use ST_IsValid function.

SELECT a.freguesia, a.area_ha, a.geom
FROM  vectors.porto_freguesias AS a
WHERE NOT ST_IsValid(a.geom);

Example 13 - Simple approach to fix invalid geometries

ST_makevalid is the function that returns a corrected geometry.

CREATE TABLE my_freguesias AS
SELECT id, name, ST_buffer((ST_makevalid(geom)),0)) as geom
FROM vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE NOT ST_IsValid(geom);

Example 14 - A better, more complete, approach to fix invalid polygons.

Although the previous example works well most of the times, in some cases polygons or multipolygons ST_makeValid might return points or lines. A solution for this is to use a buffer of 0 meters:

DROP TABLE IF EXISTS my_freguesias;
CREATE TABLE my_freguesias AS
SELECT id, name, ST_buffer((ST_makevalid(geom)),0)) as geom
FROM vectors.porto_freguesias
WHERE NOT ST_IsValid(geom);

Example 15 - And in case of multipolygons...

Because ST_buffer returns a single polygon geometry, if we have a table of multipolygons we need to apply ST_multi function. This function transforms any single geometry into a MULTI* geometry. In this example, instead of creating a new table we will replace the invalid polygons by valid ones, using an UPDATE TABLE.

UPDATE vectors.porto_freguesias
SET geom=(ST_multi(ST_buffer((ST_makevalid(geom)),0)))
WHERE NOT ST_IsValid(geom);

Triggers

Triggers execute a given task whenever a specific event occurs in the database. This event can be anything that changes the state of your database - an insertion, a drop, an update. They are extremely useful not only to automate tasks but also to minimize the number of interactions between the users and the database (the source of many errors...). One useful and important example is a trigger that automatically fixes invalid geometries when a new row/feature is added to the table.

Example 16 - Create a trigger that fixes invalid multipolygon geometries in real time.

 -- First lets add function INVALID()

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION invalid()
  RETURNS trigger AS
$BODY$
BEGIN
	if not st_isValid(NEW.geom) THEN
	NEW.geom = (ST_multi(ST_buffer((ST_makevalid(NEW.geom)),0))); 
	RETURN NEW;
 else    
      RETURN NEW;
    END IF;

END;
$BODY$
  LANGUAGE 'plpgsql' VOLATILE
  COST 100;

-- Now lets add trigger INVALID on our table 

DROP TRIGGER IF EXISTS trg_c_invalid ON vectors.porto_freguesias;
CREATE TRIGGER trg_c_invalid BEFORE INSERT OR UPDATE
ON vectors.porto_freguesias FOR EACH ROW EXECUTE PROCEDURE invalid();

Triggers are very important in production databases, but they can be quite complex. For more information about triggers please check the official documentation: https://www.postgresql.org/docs/current/static/plpgsql-trigger.html


Solutions for the integration challenges

SELECT a.name, a.geom
FROM vectors.lugares AS a, vectors.ferrovia AS b
WHERE st_intersects(a.geom, ST_Buffer(b.geom, 300));
SELECT a.name, a.geom
FROM vectors.lugares AS a, vectors.ferrovia AS b, vectors.porto_freguesias AS c
WHERE st_intersects(a.geom, ST_Buffer(b.geom, 300)) AND c.concelho LIKE 'MATOSINHOS' AND ST_Intersects(a.geom, c.geom);