Tag: stormwater

Moving Away from Paper Field Maps


Yesterday I participated in an all day seminar on Asset Management and GIS at the New Jersey Water Environment Association conference.  The seminar had some good presentations on deploying Mobile GIS at water and wastewater utilities.  The Mobile GIS presentations and the questions from the seminar attendees echoed what we have seen firsthand at many customers. Deploying Mobile GIS to the field is not that hard with the right technology, software and data. The challenge for most utilities is making field crews comfortable with technology and breaking their dependence on paper maps. 

In other words, you should use a change management process to make your field crews comfortable with Mobile GIS.  We’ve seen great success from utilities that have taken a proactive approach and engaged the hearts and minds of their field crews as part of deploying a mobile GIS solution.  We’ve also seen some W/WW utilities that have a business need to deploy mobile GIS but are so nervous about field crew acceptance, they are afraid to move forward.

So here are some successful steps we’ve seen W/WW use to get field crew comfortable with mobile GIS:

  • 1. Explain the value of mobile GIS to field crews – start with explaining how mobile GIS will make their jobs easier – they’ll have more up to date information in the field, they’ll have better information in the field (beyond the labels on their paper maps), they won’t have to fill out paper forms, etc. Then explain the value of mobile GIS to the entire utility – save costs, increase field crew safety, give us better information in the office, use less paper, etc. Ensure that all of your field crews know how mobile GIS is a solution that benefits them and why it is important for the utility as an organization.
  • 2. Show field crews the technology – You can use the Water Utility Mobile Map to demonstrate mobile GIS to your field crews. This should help them understand that mobile GIS isn’t complicated for them to use. Also engage them for their feedback, what do you they like about the mobile application, what don’t they like. You should also let field crews give their preference for the mobile device in the field (if you haven’t standardized on one yet). Let them see a rugged tablet, versus a laptop or a smart phone.
  • 3. Keep it simple – We’ve learned that you don’t want to throw the kitchen sink at field crews when they are starting with mobile GIS. You should introduce some basic functionality and then expand that out over time as they become comfortable with the look and feel of mobile GIS. That is why we created the WRC Mobile Map as a simple application to start with.
  • 4. Do a pilot – Deploy the mobile GIS application with your data to a few of your field crews and get their feedback. Ideally you’ll do the pilot with a crew that is more comfortable with technology and one that is less comfortable. This will give you a good idea how to train the rest of your field crews.
  • 5. Be prepared to support the mobile rollout – have your workflow to support mobile GIS ready to go & define how you will support the mobile field crews. The actual rollout needs to be geared toward making everything easy for the field users.
  • 6. Do a hands on training session – based on what you learned in the pilot, do a hands on training session for the rest of the field crews. Give them a 1 page laminated cheat sheet of how to use the application. Have the pilot crews share their experience. Plan on a doing a refresher training session a week or two after deployment.
  • 7. Set a “sunset” date for your paper field map books – let the field crews know you will no longer give them new paper map books a few months after the roll out. All updates will be digital and on in their mobile GIS application. It is important to note that you will still be printing out paper maps for the field as needed, but you will no longer be printing out up dated map books for the field.
  • 8. Celebrate your successes – recognize crews that are excelling with the mobile application. Reward crews that are passing a lot of data back into the office and show them how you are using the information they are capturing in the mobile application.
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Getting Started with GIS for Small Utilities

A few days ago I was talking to a manager at a small combined water and wastewater utility who wanted to know with a limited budget, how can they implement GIS and where should they get started?

That’s a question we often get.  No doubt, most large and small utilities implement their GIS as a series of ongoing projects.  Most of the time utilities set aside a yearly budget for GIS to fund things like data creation, software purchase & maintenance, hardware and training.  Often small utilities will focus their data creation efforts on creating a few new layers a year.  This holds true whether they do the data creation themselves or hire a consultant to create their data.

The starting place for the majority of water, wastewater and storm water utility GIS projects is asset management.  This means both using your GIS as the system of record to store your assets information and then using that asset information to make decisions about when is the optimal time to repair rehabilitate or replace an asset.  If you are implementing an Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM) than both your GIS and your work orders are part of a system of record for your assets.

So if you are a small utility, what is an example of a high level process to get started with GIS?

  • 1. Download the ESRI Simplified Water Sewer Datamodel http://support.esri.com/index.cfm?fa=downloads.dataModels.filteredGateway&dmid=16 A data model is the structure (GIS people call this a schema) of how to store data in GIS. ESRI with a consortium of utilities and consultants has identified the best practices for storing water, wastewater and stormwater data in GIS and posted them on our website as data models you can download for free. The ESRI W/WW & SW data models were the first freely available data models for these industries and have become the de facto industry standard for how to store these types of utility data in a GIS. By using these data models as a starting place for your GIS you will save money and time and will not be reinventing the wheel.
  • 2. Compare the assets you own with the layers (GIS people call these feature classes) in the data model. Also make sure that data model can hold the descriptive information you need about each of your assets (GIS people call this attributes). So in the sewer data model you’d have a feature class for gravity sewer mains that would have attributes such as diameter, material and installation date. The data models have been in use for years and have most of the common assets in use at W/WW utilities, so more than likely you’d identify features in the data model that your utility does not own and remove them and add some attributes that your utility wants to track.
  • 3. Modify the data model you download to have the exact set of asset and attributes that you’ve identified your utility needs in your GIS. You may want to have a consultant do steps 1 to 3 for you or with appropriate training before attempting this task you can do this in house. Some utilities choose to have a consultant do a data model workshop where all of asset management stakeholders (the people in the utility that will use the information in the GIS) identify what specific information they need. Engaging all of the asset management stakeholders in modifying the data model is good investment for utilities.
  • 4. Get base mapping data – Base mapping data is data that you want to lay your utility asset data on top of in a map. There is a tremendous amount of free GIS data you can get from places like the cities or counties your utility serves. ESRI also provides free base map content through ArcGIS online.
  • 5. Identify data sources that you want to use to populate your GIS – such as hard copy maps, construction plans, as-builts, field maps, CAD files, data from spread sheets, etc. If you don’t have any good source data to start with then you may want to consider doing GPS data collection
  • 6. Do a pilot – Start to put data into your asset data into the data model. If you are doing wastewater assets, select part of your collector system (such as one sewer shed). At the end of creating pilot data use your GIS to make some maps and do some analysis – ask the questions you need answered to make better asset management decisions of your new data. Doing a pilot makes sure that any changes you made to the data model suit your needs and also helps you become comfortable with GIS. Identify any lessons learned through the pilot and then modify your approach if needed. Also identify some steps to do quality control of your new GIS data.
  • 7. After the pilot keep populating your asset data in GIS and maintaining the asset data you’ve already created. Now you have a production GIS for asset management. If you are a small utility with limited budget you may want to break your GIS up into phases – such as doing 1 sewer shed each year or doing your water distribution system in the 1st year and then your wastewater system the next year.

By investing in training or hiring someone with GIS knowledge you can achieve these tasks yourself.  Also many small utilities use an ESRI business partner to help them get started with their GIS.   Understanding the steps above will help you better engage with a GIS consultant.

While asset management has been the traditional starting place of W/WW & Stormwater GIS, we’ve seen an interesting trend emerge over the past few years where some utilities have made vehicle routing or a management dashboard their first GIS project.  By starting with something like vehicle routing, water utilities can have a quick win with GIS (who can argue with the benefit of fuel savings & reducing vehicle miles driven) and become comfortable with GIS as technology before moving forward with getting your assets into GIS.

As always, if you have anything to share on this topic please post a comment or send an email to: ArcGISTeamWater@esri.com

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Changing the Dashboard – Adding a Widget

So you want to add your own widget to the Dashboard, but you are unsure how. It is easier then you think. All you need to do is add the layer to display to a map document and then configure the widget.

In the following example, I am going to walk through adding a new live layer widget. These widgets are the widgets that support the workorders, customer calls, etc.

First we need to set up the layer in a map document. The other live layer widgets use the WaterDistributionOperations.mxd map document, so let’s just add the layer to this document.

Just open the map document and add the new layer as the last layer in the table of contents. For Example add the wMeter Feature Class.

Now the REST Services use the visible fields and the field alias’s in the layer properties. So  take some time here and turn off fields not needed to be displayed and added field alais’s if you did not define them in the Geodatabase. Certain fields are required, do not turn these off, this includes Global ID, SHAPE and OBJECTID.

Save your map document, and then restart the map service. It is probably a good idea to clean you REST cache at this point. Typically the link to REST admin is the following: http://localhost/ArcGIS/rest/admin

Now we need to configure the widget. Browse to <Install Location>Sample Flex ViewerFlexViewercomesrisolutionsflexviewerwidgets. Copy and paste LiveLayerWidget.xml. Rename the widget to something more meaningful, like LiveLayerWidget_Meters.xml.

Open up the LiveLayerWidget_Meters.xml file in your favorite XML Editor.

Find the URL of the layer you just added. This can be found in the Service Directory Web Site. The URL to this is typically http://localhost/ArcGIS/rest/services. Find the WaterDistributionOperations service and click it to see the details. Click the Meters layer and copy the URL from the address bar at the top. Should look like this: http://localhost/ArcGIS/rest/services/OperationsDashboard/WaterDistributionOperations/MapServer/5

Copy and paste that between the Layer tags.

Next fill out a query if you want in the query tag. Here I am trying to find all meters that are set to out of service.

<query>ACTIVEFLAG = 0</query>

List the fields you want to display in the fields tag. Use the field aliases here. You can get these from the REST service page.


For Instance, instead of LOCDESC, use Location Description.

Next is the Filter Tag. Here you can allow the users to type in a value to filter the results in real time. For Example, I added the filter to see only critical customers.

The Refresh tag allows you specify a value, in seconds, for the widget to requery the data.

Lastly, you can set a zoom scale. This is the scale the map zooms to when someone clicks a record in the widget.

Save your changes. The last step is to configure that application to load the widget.

Browse to Sample Flex ViewerFlexViewer and open the Config.xml in your XML Editor.

Scroll to the Widget tag

Copy one of the existing widet tags and change it to point to the xml file you just created. You may also want to change the icon to something else. There is a bunch of icons in the <Install Location> Sample Flex ViewerFlexViewercomesrisolutionsflexviewerassetsimagesicons folder.

It should look like this when you are all done.

<widget label=”Out of Service Metersicon=”com/esri/solutions/flexviewer/assets/images/icons/yellowWarning.pngmenu=”menuOpLayersconfig=”com/esri/solutions/flexviewer/widgets/LiveLayerWidget_OutOfServiceMeters.xml>com/esri/solutions/flexviewer/widgets/LiveLayerWidget.swf</widget>

Save your changes and open up the flex application.

Thanks, let us know how you make out.

ArcGIS Team Water


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Changing the Look of the Water Operations Dashboard

So you like the dashboard, but you want it to look different, maybe give it that home town feel. Changing the icons and title is easier than you think.  All you need to do is update a few xml files.  

Start with the Config.xml file in the root of the Flex application, located in <InstallLocation>WaterOperationsDashboard. Before you make and changes, save a copy of the original Config.xml file, then if you do mess something up, you have a backup. Modifying the Config.xml file in notepad or a similar text editor can be painful. It is much easier to use an XML Editor to make the changes.

Here I am using a product called Aptana Studio, you can see that the tags are color coded, so they are easier to read.


Lets start with the Title.

Under <configuration> and <userinterface>, you will see a tag called <title>. Put whatever title you want in there. Save the changes and open up the Flex application in your favorite web browser, you should see the new title.




<title>Water Distribution Operations Dashboard</title>

<subtitle>Powered by ArcGIS Server</subtitle>

Now while we are here, we change the Logo, this is the left icon on the banner.

On the tag below, look at the path. This path points to a location in the Flex Applications Directory.


Translate that path to a windows path, it should look like below.


You can either replace the image or change the image with a image editing software. If you replace it, watch your size, this one is 64×64. If you want to modify the default image than edit logo_water_GE.png in you favorite image editing software. You can use Windows Paint, but it can not create transparencies. I like to use a program called Paint.NET. It handles transparency well and it allows you to layer images and combine them.


That should do it. Open your dashboard and you will see the updated image.

You can repeat this process for the rest of the tags in the config file.

Good luck, if you are proud of your icons and skins, post them. We would love to take a look at them. 

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Water Utilities Templates Updated

The ESRI Water Utilities Team posted updates to all three templates in the Gallery today.    In summary, these updates include:

  • Updates to the Operations Feature Dataset in the Sample.gdb.
  • Updates to the Getting Started documents.
  • Release Notes for each Template.
  • General improvements to error handling and messaging in the Mobile Map Template.
  • Performance improvement for several tools in the Network Editing Template.
  • Bug fixes in the Network Editing and Mobile Map Templates.
  • New functionality added to the Network Editing Template.

For details on the new functions and the bug fixes, please refer to the release notes in each templates folder.
The Team will post updates from time to time to resolve known issues and add new functionality. If you have specific questions about the updates, please let us know: ArcGISTeamWater@esri.com
The ArcGIS Water Team

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