California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Closed, Illegal and Abandoned (CIA) Disposal Sites

Using Microsoft TerraServer

The Microsoft TerraServer Web site is a useful resource for obtaining an aerial photo with a reasonable scale (approximately 1”= 200 ft) that will allow one to estimate the size and location (latitude and longitude) of a closed, illegal, and abandoned disposal (CIA) site in California.

Using the TerraServer site is not difficult. It requires that you locate the site using either the address (street number, street name, city and ZIP code) or geographical features (highways, roads, landmarks, etc.). If you have geographic positioning system (GPS) latitude and longitude coordinates, TerraServer will allow you to input these coordinates and go directly to the location. Some patience is required in using the site's "button" features to navigate in areas featured in the aerial photo, manipulate the scale of the map, toggle between a USGS map and an aerial photo, or obtain latitude and longitude information using the image info button.

It should be noted that TerraServer is intended for use in applications for real estate sales, appraisal and transaction and the aerial photos are limited to incorporated areas and some rural areas. Remote areas with no real estate interest, e.g. Bureau of Land Management property, etc. may not be covered by TerraServer aerials.

There are obvious advantages to this resource:

a) You can develop a scaled site map for site investigation and site mapping purposes (sample location map, site access, land use, locating gas and water monitoring wells and control systems).

b) Using for field notes during investigations and inspections (locating illegal disposal sites).

c) Comparing waste disposal area to property boundaries (overlay parcel map with aerial photo).

d) Verifying or obtaining GPS latitude and longitude coordinates for input into SWIS.

Producing TerraServer Aerial Photos and USGS Maps with Latitude & Longitude Grid

To create an aerial photo or USGS topographic map with a latitude and longitude coordinate grid that you can import and export to documents use the following procedures:

  1. Ensure you have the location or address for the site (TerraServer needs a location name, e.g. city, town, county) or latitude and longitude (GPS info).
  2. Access the TerraServer Web site at
  3. Select "Advanced Find."
  4. Select a "Search Type" (typically "Address" or "Geographic Coordinate"). For an address search, type in the street, city, state (CA), ZIP, and country (United States) of the site. Typing in only the city and state will give you the center of the city.
  5. Select the USGS aerial photo hyperlink (typically dated 1992-95). The USGS topo map is a topographic map, not a photo. You can toggle back and forth from the USGS map to the corresponding aerial photo as a means of identifying street names, landmarks, and elevation information. Also, for viewing purposes you can select the "large" info button to increase the image size.
  6. When the photo comes up, you can use the north, south, east, west arrows to navigate to the specific location you are looking for (use highway, roads, rivers, etc. as geographical references--it helps to have a AAA map or Thomas Bros. Guide map of the specific area). You can also use the USGS topo map under "other images," which identifies street names, landmarks, and topographic elevations. (For canyon fills and gravel pits, this map can be useful for defining "prelandfill topography.") The USGS topo map can also have latitudes and longitudes overlain by using the "image info" button. (The same procedures that follow can apply to producing a USGS topo map with latitude and longitude lines using TerraServer.)
  7. To zoom in, use the mouse to point and click on the specific location on the aerial map, and keep left-mouse clicking until you reach a resolution of 1 meter (or 1 in = 200 feet). To zoom out to the next scale, click on the Resolution Icon Scale at the top of the map (the button with the minus sign). The scale for the aerial photos and maps goes from 1 meter to 16 meters.
  8. Once you have found your location, cut and paste the web site address to a file (e-mail, document, etc.) or bookmark to favorites for future reference.
  9. To create an aerial photo or USGS topographic map with the latitude and longitude coordinate grid click on "Image Info" (at the top of the screen). Scroll down to view the map. 
  10. If you are satisfied with the map view; left click and hold down the mouse and drag and highlight the aerial and latitude and longitude info to put the quad on the clipboard. As you drag across the image, it will "highlight" (darken). The darkened image is what will be cut and copied to the clipboard.
  11. Open the Word application, and use the page setup function (under "file" menu) to (a) set the paper size to landscape, and (b) decrease the margin size to the minimum width possible (input .2 for top, bottom, left, and right margins).
  12. Perform an Edit-Paste to your open document and save your file to a desired directory.

If you have any questions on how to use this resource please contact any of the CIA staff. There is no charge for accessing and using this site.

Historical Aerial Photos

Last updated: June 26, 2013
Closed, Illegal, and Abandoned (CIA) Disposal Sites,
Glenn Young: (916) 341-6696