Tag: Best Practices

Measuring access to parks

Park analysis and design – Measuring access to parks (part 1)
Have you ever wondered how far you are from a park? In this post, I’ll examine the placement of parks in Redlands, California, and determine which areas are best and worst served by a park. In future posts, I’ll discuss siting a new park using binary suitability analysis, web-based tools for evaluating and increasing park access, and the design of a new park using ArcMap and feature template-based editing.

Over the last year, I’ve been attending various urban planning conferences and have discussed with several urban planners the need to design healthier communities, and I have heard this notion echoing throughout the planning community.

One concern is to figure out how well areas are served by parks. In my analysis, I want to determine which areas are within one mile of a park and visualize the results in a way that is easy to understand. I chose one mile, assuming most people can visualize how long it would take them to walk a mile, but this analysis could certainly be easily altered to measure any distance and present the results in a similar manner.

To do this, I could use a simple one-mile buffer around the parks, as the first map shows. However, a map created that way does not consider modes of travel. I want to measure pedestrian access to parks, so the best route is to travel along a road, preferably on the sidewalk.

The more accurate way to measure park access is to determine areas around the parks that fall within a specified distance from the parks along the road network. Using network analysis, we call this a service area analysis, or drive time, but this uses the road network only.

There are tools within the Spatial Analyst toolbox to run a cost-distance analysis: essentially a distance map calculated against a surface describing how difficult it is to travel across a landscape. This gives me the ability to rank our landscape by how easy it is to travel, road or not.

I want to then create a map showing areas that are ¼, ½, 1 mile, and greater than 1 mile from a park along the road network and show the distances on the map as well as on a graph.

Creating a travel cost surface
For my analysis, I am first going to create a cost surface that describes ease of travel through Redlands, with areas along roads being easier (cheaper) to travel through, and areas farther from roads more difficult (expensive) to travel.

To do this, I start by creating a raster surface where every cell has a value for the distance it is from itself to the nearest walkable road segment; that is, I don’t have to drive a car to get to a park and can even get exercise on the way.

First, I’ll need to map the road network. From the City of Redlands roads dataset, I can simplify all the roads into three main types: minor, major (arterial), and highway.

Since pedestrians cannot safely or legally walk on the highways, I can remove them from the analysis. The first tool in the model will be the Select tool, which allows a set of features to be removed for analysis by an SQL statement. In this case, I’ll use Road Type not equal to Highway to remove the highways from the analysis and create a walkable road dataset.

Of course, this would be a good place for a better road dataset in which each street had an attribute for whether or not it is walkable. I have heard of a few communities and organizations starting to capture this data, and it would be most useful for this application.

Once I have extracted the walkable roads, I’ll run the Euclidean Distance tool to create a surface in which each raster cell holds a value for the distance between itself and the nearest road.

The Euclidean Distance tool creates a surface where every part of the study area is broken down into a square (cell), and every square is assigned the distance to the nearest road segment. I’ve adjusted the symbology to group cells into distance bands.

Creating a cost surface
I’ll now borrow a concept from a weighted overlay (suitability) model and reclassify the road distances onto a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 is the cheapest (easiest to travel), and 6 is the most expensive (difficult to travel).To do this, use the Reclassify tool. It allows me to define the number of classes into which I want to reclassify the data. The Old Values column describes the distances from the Euclidean distance raster. The New Values column is the breakdown of the new values for the ranges of the old distance values.

Notice I’m going to reclassify the distances using the same distance bands I used earlier to describe how far each part of town is from the nearest road. Each cell in each distance band then gets a new value describing its cost on a scale of 1 to 6.

Here are the new reclassified distances. Notice the values become more expensive when moving away from the roads.

This now becomes the cost surface that I’ll use to measure park access.

Evaluating park data
Because the park data is stored as centroid points, they may not necessarily reflect the true access points to the parks themselves. By creating points at the corners of the park, I can have a more suitable location from which to measure park access.

Borrowing again from the City of Redlands dataset, I’ll simply select the parcels that intersect the park points and run those intersecting parcels through the Feature Vertices To Point tool in the Data Management toolbox.

Depending on the geometry of some of the parcels, I might end up with a little more than just the corners, but this is a much more accurate representation of how to get into the park than just a point in the middle of the parcel.

Calculating cost distance
Next, I’ll run the new park points against the cost surface using the Cost Distance tool in the Spatial Analyst toolbox. Using this tool, I can create a raster surface where each cell has a distance from itself to the nearest park point along the cheapest path—in this case, the cells that are nearest to the roads as described by our cost surface.
The resultant raster gives a picture of how far each location is in the entire city to the nearest park, which is somewhat hard to visualize. I can then reclassify the distances into simple ¼-, ½-, and 1-mile areas.

Visualizing the results
Taking the walkable road network into consideration certainly does give a much better picture of areas served by parks—and notice the areas that now show up as underserved that the buffer didn’t expose. These areas are over a mile from a park, which meets our criteria of underserved.

In addition to mapping, I can also create a graph that visualizes the percentages of the city that are served by parks by their respective distances.

Using the graphing tools in ArcMap, I can create a new field of data to hold the percentage, calculated by using a variable in the model that stored the area of the City, and divide that by the area of each feature in my walkability analysis. I can create a table that stores the values of the output of my reclassification (1,2,3,5,9) and their respective labels (500’, ¼ Mi, ½ Mi, 1 Mi, and More than 1 Mile) and join that table to my walkability output. It’s an extra step, but one that can be repeated if my underlying data changes and I want to run it again.

Now that I have identified that there are areas underserved by parks, the task of my next blog post will be to determine the best location for a new park using a simple binary suitability analysis.

Data credits
Data is provided by the City of Redlands. The data and models for this blog post can be found here


Part 2 – Park analysis and design: Locating a park through suitability analysis

Part 3 – Park analysis and design:  Voting on a new park location

Part 4 – Park analysis and design:  Sketching the design of a new park

Content for the post from Matthew Baker

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Water, Wastewater and Stormwater GIS at the 2011 Esri User Conference

Every year leading up to the Esri International User conference we get asked by the water, wastewater and stormwater GIS user community what are the “can’t miss” events.  So we thought we would highlight some key things for water utility GIS users at the 2011 User Conference.

First, and most importantly, the User Conference is full of opportunities to learn and bring valuable information back to your organizations, so we are just highlighting a few of the many great presentations, meetings and events at the UC.  No matter how you choose to spend your time at the UC, you and your organization will benefit from it.  If you haven’t registered for the 2011 User Conference yet, you can register here.

Since we are only highlighting a few of the many activities at the 2011 UC, we suggest you take advantage of the online Agenda Search to make the best use of your conference time.  You can query by keyword, such as “water”, “sewer” or “stormwater” to find presentations topics and you can also view all of the presentations, events and meetings by date.

So, here are some of our recommendations for 2011 User Conference:

Saturday July 9th

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM  Water/Wastewater Meeting – Convention Center Room 29A

Join us for an all-day meeting focused on water, wastewater and stormwater GIS.  Presentations by ArcGIS users, Esri Business Partners and Esri.  For more information and to register contact Christa Campbell.

Monday July 11th

9:00 AM – Plenary Session

Not to be missed, kick off the User Conference by attending the plenary session and get energized for the week.  Also see a preview of ArcGIS 10.1. 

3:30 PM – Map Gallery Open

See maps from water utilities as well as many other industries.    

4:30 PM – Lightning Talks – Ballroom 20 C & D

Lighting talks feature rapid fire speakers giving 5 minute presentations about a variety of GIS topics.  A great format to showcase a lot of ideas and get you thinking about new way to leverage GIS. 

Tuesday July 12th

8:30 AM – 9:45 – ArcGIS for Local Government – An Introduction -  Room 32 B

Learn about templates, maps, apps and the Local Government Resource Center.  Also learn about the Local Government Information Model, which is the datamodel for ArcGIS for Water Utilities. 

9AM – Exhibit Hall Opens

Be sure to visit Esri’s Water Team at the Water Industry Island in the exhibit hall.  We’re available to answer your questions, talk about the templates, demonstrate ArcGIS for Water Utilities and take your feedback.

9AM – Water Utility GIS Data Health Checks Begin

At the Geodatabase Management Island in the Esri Showcase, Esri staff can perform “Health Checks” on your water utility GIS data.  The Health Checks include automated checks on your data in a personal or file geodatabase so you can understand the overall quality of your data.

This service is available from 9 AM to 5:30 PM Tuesday the 12th and Wednesday the 13th and 9 AM to 1 PM on Thursday the 14th.  We expect high demand for Health Checks, so we encourage you to email datareviewer@esri.com with your name, organization, contact information to reserve a preferred date and time.

9AM – GIS Managers’ Open Summit – Ballroom 20 B/C

If you are a GIS manager at a water utility be sure to stop into the GIS Managers’ Open Summit and share knowledge with other GIS managers from a variety of industries.  This is a great venue to learn about best practices and cutting edge advances in managing GIS within any organization.

Wednesday July 13

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Team Water/Wastewater & Stormwater User Group Meeting – Room 2

Come learn what the user community is up to, get updates on user community driven projects and get some key briefings from the Esri Water Team.

1:30 PM – 2:45 – Understanding Geometric Networks Technical Workshop – Room 3 

Geometric networks are a component of the geodatabase that every water, wastewater and stormwater utility should be benefiting from.  Come learn about geometric networks and new geometric network capabilities coming at ArcGIS10.1.

3:15 – 4:30 PM – ArcGIS for Water Utilities – An Introduction – Room 32 B

Get an overview of ArcGIS for Water Utilities, including demonstrations.  We’ll also discuss our future plans.  This is a great opportunity to give us feedback and request functionality from the team behind ArcGIS for Water Utilities.

7:00 PM – 10:00 – Team Water/Wastewater “Pool Party” – Pool Terrace

Kick back with your peers, enjoy some food and beverages and listen to some music.  This is a fantastic opportunity to network with the water, wastewater and stormwater user community and share information with peers in a social setting.  It’s also one heck of a party. 

Thursday July 14

10:15 – 11:30 AM ArcGIS for Water Utilities – Configuring – Room 32 B

Learn how to configure the maps and apps that are part of ArcGIS for Water Utilities.  This session will also cover general best practices for configuring ArcGIS as a platform to support water, wastewater and stormwater GIS.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2011 Esri User Conference!

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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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