Difficulty: intermediate
Estimated Time: 20 minutes

Congrats! We've covered a lot in this lesson. We've seen multiple ways to import spatial data on the command line, and hopefully you now have a good idea how to use one method over another for a particular scenario.

If you're interested in reviewing different methods for loading (non-spatial) data into Postgres in general, feel free to check out this course.

We also started a discussion on projections, but the next course in this series contains even more technical details and examples. Enjoy!

Loading Spatial Data into PostGIS

Step 1 of 10

Spatial Reference Systems

Spatial data allows you to model and position things, typically on the Earth's surface. But a value like "POINT(-103.771555 44.967244)" is practically meaningless without a spatial reference system (SRS). (You may also come across the term "coordinate system" used interchangeably in GIS.)

A spatial reference system is a framework for understanding a set of spatial data. It provides information such as units of measurement (e.g. degrees, meters, feet); whether the data represents a location on the Earth represented as a sphere or projected out on a flat surface, like a map; and, if it's on a projection, how the "flattening" is done. So, as you may already know or have guessed, a spatial value could be valid across different SRS's, but end up meaning entirely different things in each case.

Spatial reference systems and PostGIS

PostGIS comes with a list of spatial reference systems -- you can take a look at it by querying the spatial_ref_sys table. First, we'll log in to Postgres as user groot, toggle on extended display in the psql shell, then execute a SELECT query to return a single record (srid = 4326).

psql -U groot -h localhost workshop
\x

SELECT * FROM spatial_ref_sys WHERE srid = 26918;

In addition to having a frame of reference for a given set of spatial data, we also need to assign an SRS to ensure that different datasets can "work" together. You may be using various reference systems across your database but your functions and queries will still work because PostGIS understands how to process your data.