Tag: Best Practices

Esri Mid-Atlantic Water/Wastewater Special Interest Group Meeting on May 18

On May 18th we will be hosting a meeting of the Esri Mid-Atlantic Water/Wastewater Special Interest Group in our Chesterbrook, PA office.  The meeting will run from 9 am to 3 pm.  Lunch is provided and is graciously sponsored by Esri Business Partner GBA Master Series. Continue reading

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Announcing ArcGIS for Water Utilities


We’re proud to announce the next evolution of Esri’s offerings for water, wastewater and stormwater utilities – ArcGIS for Water Utilities.


Over the next few weeks leading up to the Esri User Conference, we will be reorganizing the Water Utility Resource Center and our templates into ArcGIS for Water Utilities.  In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to give an overview of ArcGIS for Water Utilities and answer some questions we’ve already received from members of the user community that have helped us bring ArcGIS for Water Utilities together.


What is ArcGIS for Water Utilities?


ArcGIS for Water Utilities is a collection of maps and apps packaged for the ArcGIS platform. It is designed to meet common needs of water, wastewater and stormwater utilities.  The maps and apps that are part of ArcGIS for Water Utilities are the next generation of the Water Utility Resource Center Templates.


ArcGIS for Water Utilities is a configuration of ArcGIS software and is included in the cost of licensing the ArcGIS system.


What do you mean by the “ArcGIS System”?


ArcGIS is a scalable system of integrated software that is designed to be deployed in a variety of ways.  The advances in ArcGIS 10 truly make ArcGIS a geo-spatial technology platform that meets the common generic needs of any organization for creating, managing, analyzing and sharing spatial data.  All components of the ArcGIS platform – ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Server, the geodatabase, mobile GIS clients, web GIS clients, work seamlessly together when deployed as a system.


Water utilities are finding it easier to license the whole system because it fits their business needs better than buying individual pieces of software in a piecemeal manner. ArcGIS for Water Utilities enables users to get started fast and to become immediately productive. It provides a framework that can be extended and improved both by individual organizations as well as by valued business partners that support the water utilities community.


This sounds a lot like the Water Utility Templates you already have?


Yes – because it is the next generation of our templates.  Based on your experiences and requests, we’ve decided that we can make water utility GIS easier, faster, cheaper and less confusing to implement by delivering all the parts you need to successfully implement ArcGIS to serve your organization’s mission.


How does this relate to Esri’s cloud efforts?


The cloud is already part of Esri’s platform, so it should come as no surprise that ArcGIS for Water Utilities can be implemented on site or in the cloud and will continue to evolve with the cloud capabilities of ArcGIS platform.


Why are you doing this?


We want to make ArcGIS easier, faster and cheaper to deploy for water utilities.


Are you going to a formal release schedule for ArcGIS for Water Utilities?


Yes. We have definite plans to continue to make incremental improvements and additions and will release these on an on-going basis.


How can I get ArcGIS for Water Utilities?


Download the set of maps and apps from the ArcGIS.com Water Utilities community, just like you currently download the Water Utility Templates.


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Map Packages

Map packages (.mpk) make it easy to share complete map documents with others. A map package contains a map document (.mxd) and the data referenced by the layers it contains, packaged into one convenient, portable file. Map packages can be used for easy sharing of maps between colleagues in a work group, across departments in an organization, or with any other ArcGIS users via ArcGIS online. Map packages have other uses, too, such as the ability to create an archive of a particular map that contains a snapshot of the current state of the data used in the map.

If you have ArcGIS 10 give packaging a try and here’s a tip:

Before packaging a map, be sure to enter descriptive information about it in the Map Document Properties dialog box. This information is built into the package and is accessible to others when you upload your map package into ArcGIS online. You can access this dialog box by clicking File > Map Document Properties on the main menu. 

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Data quality concerns keeping you up at night?

What keeps water, wastewater and stormwater utility GIS professionals up at night?   Could be doubts about your system architecture or capacity, might be fears about data backups and recovery, maybe your backlog of unprocessed as-builts.  A common concern we are hearing right now from the user community is about being sure that your data is good enough to meet the needs of your utility.  This is driving more water utilities to focus on quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC).

Across the industry water utilities are expanding their GIS quality control procedures or implementing formalized quality control if they don’t have any in place.  Water utilities are also reviewing their existing GIS implementation and workflows for ways to increase quality assurance.  At some water utilities these changes are coming out the GIS department, driven by proactive GIS managers and staff.  At other utilities these changes are coming top down from utility management that recognize GIS data now runs throughout their utility like a steel thread or from the IT department as it assess the state of all utility digital data.

But haven’t we always been concerned about data quality?

Continue reading

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How GIS Supports the Core Business Patterns of a Water Utility

No doubt, if you’ve seen Esri present on water, wastewater or stormwater utility GIS over the past year you’ve probably heard us talk about how GIS fits into the “business patterns” of a water utility. We’ve gotten tremendously positive feedback from the water utility community that this framework helps people understand how GIS supports their mission as a utility. We’ve also heard from GIS professionals that this is a very useful framework t to educate their colleagues about the current and potential future contributions of GIS at their utility.

We thought it would be helpful to take some time to review these patterns as we will continue to build upon these concepts in 2011 with the Water Utility Resource Center.


This graphic shows 5 common “business patterns” of a water utility – Asset Management, Planning and Analysis, Field Mobility, Operational Awareness and Stakeholder Engagement. Just about all of the activities of a water utility fall within one or cross multiple of these business patterns

Let’s review these 5 common water utility business patterns and how GIS supports them.

The Asset Management Business Pattern

All utilities engage in some form of “asset management”. Increasingly utilities are creating formalized “asset management programs”. Even without a formal asset management program (and a program in this case doesn’t imply a software program, it means an organizational initiative) many utilities have informal workflows and procedures that guide decision making around managing assets. So from a hunch about what assets need to be replaced or maintained to hard scientific evidence, utilities are constantly making decisions about their assets.

The cornerstone of effective asset management at utilities is good asset information. Whether a utility has a formal asset management program or an informal one, decisions require some level of information about assets – from knowledge in a worker’s head to information in a computerized system.

GIS supports the Asset Management pattern of water utilities through being the authoritative system to store, manage and maintain accurate asset records that are able to be shared utility wide. Simply put, GIS manages asset information.

It’s important to note that it’s common at water utilities for the complete information about an asset to be stored in multiple systems. For example, GIS stores the location, connectivity to other assets and basic descriptive information (material, diameter, install date, operational status, etc) about an asset, a workorder management system (also called EAM or CMMS) may store extended information about the work history for an asset, a financial system may store depreciation and valuation information for assets, a customer information system may store complaints about the function of an asset, etc. Optimally there is integration among all of the systems that store information about an asset and the ability for utility staff to access data stored across multiple systems enabling a comprehensive view of the location, connectivity, status, history and description of an asset.

Going Beyond Managing Asset Information with GIS

In the early years of water utility GIS, the bulk of GIS activity for water utilities was focused on creating and maintaining GIS data about assets and that data was used to make maps. GIS was usually the domain of a few folks in the utility that were tasked with continually updating data to support the creation of paper maps for the field and the office.

Over the years, many utilities have evolved their GIS to much more than just a siloed system to manage asset data to make maps. Around the industry utilities realized that their GIS contained a treasure trove of information that could be shared across the entire organization and used to support many of the information needs of the utility. No doubt, utilities can significantly increase their return on investment in GIS by sharing it around the entire utility and using it to support multiple business patterns.

Planning and Analysis

Historically, when a utility had asset data in GIS, it was a natural evolution to begin using that data to support the planning needs of the utility through spatial analysis.

Water utilities plan for the future and use some form of data analysis to do this. There are normally 2 very distinct types of planning water utilities do – short term planning and long term planning. Short term planning at a water utility is typically focused on creating and optimizing reactive and proactive work orders. Long term water utility planning typically focuses on capital improvement planning and future utility network expansion projects.

GIS supports water utility planning and analysis by transforming asset and operational data into actionable information. So far we’ve focused on asset data; operational data for water utilities is customer complaints, service requests, historic work order locations, etc. Crossing the Asset Management business pattern we described above and the Planning and Analysis pattern encompasses what many in water utility industry consider define as a utility asset management program.

For short term planning, GIS is typically used to support creating and optimizing work orders. Answering questions such as what is the best route to accomplish my daily work tasks and where can I do some proactive work in close proximity to assets that need reactive work. GIS is also used to understand what assets you should do proactive work on and when you should do it. An example is answering questions about which sewer pipes take flow from restaurants that are frequent grease trap violators resulting in the need for pipes to be cleaned more often to prevent fat, oil and grease build up from causing a blockage and overflow.

For long term planning, asset data, performance data and GIS analysis is used to help utilities understand how their utility networks are performing. Then to identify the best replacement and rehabilitation projects to undertake and to estimate project costs to support project evaluation and budgeting. For example, water utilities use repeatable geoprocessing models that take into account many weighted factors to rate their assets on condition, reliability, criticality, performance, etc. This information is then used to help guide where to best spend capital dollars to maximize the value of investments in a utility’s assets. For main extensions; land records, demographic projections and proposed development plans are often used to help guide long term system expansion plans.

Field Mobility

Water, wastewater and stormwater utilities have mobile workers that are out in the field for the majority of their work days. In small utilities mobile workers may have many responsibilities such as meter reading, customer service, installs, maintenance, repair work, CCTV, hydrant flushing, valve exercising, etc and in large utilities mobile workers may be specialized.

Mobile field workers at water utilities need information that is current, optimized for their needs to help them carry out their work and delivered in an easy to use format. Mobile field workers also generate much information that needs to be passed back into the office and managed in enterprise business systems.

The field mobility business patterns includes both work the field crews are performing as well as the processes used in the office to support and manage field crews. There is recognition across the industry that field work is a large part of water utility operating budget and for many utilities there is not enough field crew labor available to meet the needs of the utility. Water utilities are always looking for ways to decrease the time it takes to share information bi-directionally with the field and increase the reliability and accuracy of data coming back from the field. The mobile nature of field crews, the many tasks a field crew may carry out during a given day and the limited exposure by some field personnel to technology present a challenge to utilities that need to reduce field operations costs and increase efficiency.

Water utility field staff are among the most map centric people you will encounter. They think of their work world in terms of map book sheets. So for GIS, the Field Mobility business pattern is about providing water utility field crews with maps and map centric applications that can be rapidly updated and are easy to use. GIS also supports the Field Mobility business pattern by enabling field crews to capture GIS data in the field and efficiently pass it back into the office.

Some utilities choose to create paper or electronic field maps books out of their GIS. Other utilities are deploying mobile GIS applications for field crews that act as an interactive version of the traditional utility map book and also provide decision support and data capture tools. Whether delivering paper maps or interactive mapping applications to the field, GIS is supporting the needs of utility field workers as well as those in the office that need to share information with the field.

Operational Awareness

Talk to a manager or executive director at a utility about their information needs and most often they will say something along the lines of “I need to know what is happing around the entire utility at any given time”. They need to be operationally aware.

The Operational Awareness business pattern is about having an understanding of the current state of operations at a water utility, so this is a real time or near real time understanding of how assets, utility networks and personnel are performing and how they are affecting each other. Being operationally aware empowers water utility managers to confidently make decisions based on accurate and up to date information.

GIS supports utility operational awareness by enabling utilities to have a web map based view into the current state of operations. We’ve heard over and over from water utility managers that a map based view into their organization is the easiest way for them to understand at a glance what is currently happening at their utility. An interactive map is also an easy way for utilities to take information from multiple business systems and present it through a common application.

What do water utility managers want on their interactive maps? Most want their utility networks overlaid with locations of recent callers, new service requests, open workorders, out of service customers, crew locations, limited SCADA information, recent sewer over flows, planned capital projects, etc. They would also like to be presented with KPIs and metrics derived spatially, utilize heat maps to spot trends, be able to see historic operational data on demand and be able to zoom far enough in to see all of their utility assets in detail as necessary.

Thinking about data that utility managers need to be operationally aware brings about an important point. Much of that data comes from other enterprise business systems used at utilities and can be spatially enabled by a GIS so it is placed on the map.

Stakeholder Engagement

Water utilities have many external stakeholders such as customers, elected officials, regulatory agencies, other utilities in their service area, etc. The Stakeholder Engagement business pattern encapsulates how utilities interact with external entities that are affected by the utility.

Across the industry, the trend is for water utilities to more proactively engage with stakeholders through public outreach programs, providing more transparency while delivering information in a way that minimizes the possibility of misinterpretation. Modern water utilities recognize they need to utilize the internet and social media to communicate with their stakeholders. Presenting up to date information via interactive maps is a powerful medium to communicate with the technology savvy stakeholder.

Utilities use GIS to support Stakeholder Engagement by creating and delivering static and interactive maps. For years GIS has been used by utilities to make maps that were submitted either electronically or as a hardcopy for regulatory agencies. Utilities have also used GIS to make static maps available as an image file or PDFs on their websites. Now utilities are creating public facing web mapping applications for their stakeholders to support things like customer self service, capital project coordination, service interruption incident management and transparency into utility performance.

We hope that you’ve found this exploration of how a pattern based framework for how GIS supports the needs of water utility useful. As always, if you have any comments on this blog please share them.



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Join Esri for our Team Water/Wastewater Meeting in Orlando, Florida February 19th & 20th

If you are a water, wastewater or stormwater utility, an Esri business partner or a consultant working with water utilities please join us in Orlando for our 2 day winter Water/Wastewater Meeting February 19th and 20th in Orlando, Florida.

This meeting is a unique opportunity to collaborate and share information with the water utility user community and Esri.

To get more information including the full agenda and to register contact Lori Armstrong at larmstrong@esri.com.

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February 15th ArcGIS Data Reviewer for Water Utilities Webinar

The water utility industry is increasingly recognizing GIS as an authoritative repository of utility asset information that can be shared around the entire utility and can spatially enable other utility business systems.  As a result water, wastewater and stormwater utilities are increasing focused on GIS data accuracy.  More specifically water utilities need to ensure that their GIS data is positionally accurate (in the right place), descriptively accurate (describes the asset appropriately) and temporally accurate (up to date).

On February 15th Esri’s Water Practice and the Data Reviewer team will be offering a free webinar to discuss how water utilities can leverage the ArcGIS Data Reviewer as well as core ArcGIS functionality and the Water Utility Resource Center Templates to create and safeguard accurate asset data. You can sign up for the webinar here:


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Getting the most out of editing in ArcGIS 10: Editing attributes

Using the Attributes window is a quick way to add or update attribute values for features. This window was redesigned with ArcGIS 10 and has many enhancements. This post covers some of the functionality changes and provides tips and tricks for editing in it.

Displaying and sorting attribute information
I have some landownership data of parcels and neighborhood blocks that need attribute updates. I am going to use the Attributes window to make my changes. I can open the window by clicking the Attributes button on the Editor toolbar or right-clicking a feature with the Edit tool and clicking Attributes. To populate the Attributes window, I need to select one or more features that are currently being edited. The window can be docked to the ArcMap application and has a vertical layout by default.

The most significant functionality improvement in the ArcGIS 10 Attributes window is that the window uses layer information. This means the settings for the layer properties are reflected, rather than the feature class information from the geodatabase or data source. In the past, I would spend time entering field aliases, hiding fields, and changing the field sorting order, only to find this effort ignored in the Attributes window. However, with ArcGIS 10, all these settings are used by the Attributes window. So as I’ve emphasized in previous posts, you can save yourself time later if you set up the layer properties before you start editing. Use the Fields tab of the Layer Properties dialog box to specify how fields appear in the Attributes window and throughout ArcMap.

The top of the Attributes window groups features by the layer name and lists features by their display expression, which is set on the Layer Properties > Display tab. For my data, I have set a display expression for my Blocks layer that includes the text “Block ID: ” + the [BLOCKID] field  +  the [ZONING] field in parentheses. This makes the Attributes window entry display as Block ID: 10848 (Non-Residential). In one glance, I can understand that the numeric value is the block identification code and see how the block is zoned. I have also created a similar expression for the Parcels layer to display “Property ID:” before its ID value and zoning type.

The buttons at the top of the Attributes window sort and organize the window. By default, fields are listed by the order on the Layer Properties > Fields tab, but the Sort Fields Alphabetical button overrides this to show the field names in ascending alphabetical order. The Options menu also allows me to change temporarily how fields are displayed in the Attributes window, such as to view all the fields in a layer. Before I started editing, I used the Layer Properties > Fields tab to hide the fields I was not expecting to edit, which included the field for a property’s valuation. However, a parcel was recently reassessed and now that field needs to be updated. I can click Options > All Fields to show all the fields and make the valuation change. If I find that I need to display that field all the time or make other field display changes, I can right-click the layer name and click Layer Properties to open that dialog box quickly.

Since I am working with some parcel data with tables that are linked to my features through a relationship class, I can use the Attributes window to view and edit the records related to the selected features. Similar to feature layers, related tables can also have display expressions once they have been added to ArcMap. I can right-click the table’s entry in the Attributes window, click Add to Map, then right-click it again, point to Table, and click Table Properties. On the Display tab, I have created a display expression to show the “Owner name: ” + [OWNER] field value. I can quickly tell whether a table is in the map by noting the color of the table icon in the Attributes window: it is gold when the table is present and gray when it is not in the map. When working with related records, clicking the Expand All Relationships In Branch button at the top of the window is useful for automatically showing all the nodes in the attributes tree. It’s best to use this on a small set of features since expanding all these relationships could take some time otherwise.

Making bulk attribute updates
The values that are shown in the grid at the bottom of the window depend on what I have clicked (highlighted in gray) in the attributes tree at the top. Many times, multiple features should have the same attribute values, so I can use a trick of the Attributes window to perform bulk attribute updates. Learning where to click at the top of the window allows me to make rapid updates to the attributes of multiple features at once.

If I click one feature in the list, it flashes on the map and its attributes appear in the grid. The fields are listed in the leftmost column with their corresponding attribute values in the right column. Because the window is showing just the attribute values of that one feature, any changes I make are applied to the attributes of only that feature. However, if I need to update the values for all the selected parcel features, I can click the Parcels layer name node in the tree. In this case, any updates are applied to all the selected parcels.

When I am viewing the attributes for multiple features, only values that are common to all the features are shown in the grid. If field values are different among the features, the attribute cell in the right column is blank. To enter a value, type it and it is updated in all the highlighted features. When doing this, I need to be sure to change just the values that should apply to all the features.

If I only need to change the values for a few of the selected features, I can hold down CTRL and click features or related records to highlight them. This way, when I update the attribute values, they are applied to only the highlighted items. For example, I want to change the Percentage ownership value for just two of the related records, and not all of them. I can hold down CTRL and click to highlight only the records I want to update, such as for owners Jones and Johnson. Since the records for the City or Smith are not highlighted at the top of the window, the Percentage ownership field will not be updated for those records.

For more information on the Attributes window, see About editing attributes and Applying the same attribute values to multiple features in a layer in the ArcGIS Desktop Help.

Content provided by Rhonda from the ArcGIS Editing Team

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ArcGIS 10 Water Utility Template Updates Webcast Recording Now Available

The recording of the November 16 2010 ArcGIS 10 Water Utility Template Updates Webcast is can be viewed here:


As was requested during the webcast, we’ll be posting the most popular questions we received and answer to the blog shortly.

We’d like to also take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the live webcast and remind you to fill out the post webcast survey email.  Feedback from the water, wastewater and stormwater GIS user community directly drives our actions. 


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Good information on Geodatabase replication

The Geodatabase team recently posted some good information on network considerations when using geodatabase replication.

Geodatabase replication works in both connected and disconnected environments. Which of these environments is most appropriate for your replication requirements depends on what type of network you have and the speed of that network. Visit the Geodatabase blog for more….

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