Considerations for Migrating Water Data to the Utility Network

digital water droplet

Water utilities advancing to Esri’s Advanced Network Management platform are in various stages of planning and executing their data migrations to the ArcGIS Utility Network (UN). Typical activities include beginning the migration process, determining whether their data can currently support the Esri Water UN model, and identifying what can be achieved now for a more streamlined transition.

This article offers insight and guidance on how water utilities can approach the UN, providing specific examples that can help your utility prepare for a successful water migration and enable the platform’s advanced network management and specialized tracing functionalities for your organization.

Migration Logistics

As one of the largest enterprise transformations available to utilities in the industry today, organizations transitioning to the UN should assess the logistics of moving their unique data to the model before diving headfirst into migration activities. For a successful transformation, we recommend utilities first define their enterprise goals for the UN, develop realistic migration timetables, and decide how their current data will move to the new platform. Considering these factors will help streamline the migration process as well as equip utilities with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions for their organizations before, during, and after migration.

Defining Your Migration Goals

Understanding your individual enterprise goals for the UN is instrumental in finding the best path to the platform for your utility. Establishing these organizational goals ahead of migration empowers your utility to fully maximize the platform’s advanced modeling, tracing, and editing functionalities by understanding what your data and workflows can support currently in the model and what is possible in the future with increased data fidelity. Identifying any limitations in your data prevents unrealistic expectations with moving to the UN as well as enables your utility to budget for special custom tools or third-party add-ins to achieve your desired functionality in the platform.

Outlining Your Migration 

Without a realistic timeline or plan for completing migration tasks, your organization’s goals for the UN can fall short of expectations due to an unworkable schedule and overextended resources. Your utility should consider whether the cloud will be leveraged to host the new system, the current state of your data, and what level of functionality you hope to achieve in the UN, as these factors can significantly impact your timeline.

Depicted below are UDC’s typical migration activities implemented on our migration projects – designed to ensure your goals for the UN are met.

UDC's High-Level Migration Timeline
Figure 1 UDC’s High-Level Migration Timeline

Determining How Your Data will Migrate

Dictating how all levels of your database will fit into the UN model is a crucial component for a successful migration. To help determine your fit, UDC’s UN Data Assessment Program leverages our in-house HEIDE (High-fidelity Export Import Data Exchange) migration tool to help identify whether your data’s fields, features, domains, and relationships contain matches in the UN. This process provides your utility with an in-depth analysis of your data’s readiness for migration, helping to accelerate your migration planning and guiding your priorities and next steps in your journey.

As a flexible model, the UN can be expanded to migrate over features specific to your utility that do not currently exist in the system. We can work with you to fit your unique mappings into the model if differences are found within your data. 

Configuring Subnetworks for Advanced Tracing

The subnetwork tracing functionality provides a significant advantage for water utilities moving to the platform, as it can enable the management and analysis of your utility’s data based on the different areas designated by your supply and regulating features. 

Using subnetworks to model pressure areas, or isolation zones, within the UN, a complete UN implementation may contain hundreds or thousands of subnetworks, depending on the level of data detail and what your utility chooses to model. To build the subnetworks and establish tracing, the subnetwork controllers must first be identified and set as network sources. We can apply our HEIDE tool during your assessment to perform the initial subnetwork configurations and get ahead of the subnetwork modelling that is required by the UN model. 

Water Subnetwork Tiers

Subnetworks are divided into tier groups and follow a tier ranking within each grouping. The UN model provides three tiers of traceable subnetwork extents: Water Distribution, Water Cathodic Protection Coverage, and Water Metering Areas. 

Where additional data supports, nested hierarchical subnetworks, including Pressure and Isolation subnetworks, can be configured and traced from an initial overall Water System subnetwork. Water Cathodic Protection and Water District Metered subnetworks can also be configured where utilities have the necessary supporting data.

Tier GroupTier NameSubnetwork Controller Example
Water DistributionTier Rank 1Water SystemWell
Tier Rank 2Water PressurePressure Reducing Valve
Tier Rank 3Water IsolationIsolation Zone System
Water Cathodic Protection CoverageWater Cathodic ProtectionTest Point
Water Metering AreasWater District MeteredDMA System Meter
Table 1 UN Water Subnetwork Tiers

Water Distribution Tier Group

Like in the geometric network, water networks can be traced from wells out through the entire water system. Beyond water distribution, the Water UN model also offers tracing opportunities for water pressure and water isolation. 

Water Pressure

Water pressure zones are tracked through polygons or by pressure reducing valve attributes in most legacy systems. These pressure zones can be modelled in the UN and traced out from storage, station, or valve points, allowing users to view the extents through different water pressure systems. As a result, locations where valve extent configurations do not match their corresponding water pressure polygons are easily identifiable.

Water Isolation

Water isolation zones can be represented as polygons or as valve designations in the UN model and are traceable from the isolation zone system valves out to the extent of the locations that could be isolated. This functionality can provide utilities with a list of the services, or customers, that could be affected by any potential shutoff. 

Deciphering UN Errors

As the first step in your data assessment, UDC analyzes your source data to identify the amount of each error type your data will encounter in the UN and recommends error resolution options based on those results. The data in your legacy system today may not contain the same errors detected during this initial run, as the UN enforces stricter rules than many other systems to enable advanced tracing, enforce high data fidelity, and enhance reporting analytics. These rules can, therefore, illuminate different issues in your data of which you were unaware. 

Certain errors in your source data can impact your transition to the UN or the interface and usability for your users in the new system and must be corrected before migrating your data. Other less critical errors can be remedied as part of a full migration – either during the process or after the UN is established. However, we recommend resolving as many errors as can be supported prior to moving over your data to streamline the migration process and save time later. 

Rules can be added to the UN model to allow exceptions to the default errors, but it should first be determined whether the reported errors are actual errors, such as invalid connectivity, or require simple fixes. For example, if domain values fall outside of the acceptable list of values for the corresponding domain and should be added, UDC can incorporate those into the model during migration using our internal migration tools.

Source and UN Data Analyses

Going one step further past just a source data analysis, UDC also provides a robust UN data analysis that assesses your individual UN errors and provides insight into how your utility’s data would truly function in the UN model. Reviewing and resolving these identified errors prior to a full UN implementation renders your utility the following benefits:

  • Model data as designed,
  • Prevent invalid facility connections,
  • Enable cleaner subnetwork creation and data analytics, and
  • Create and execute a complete data readiness plan to help streamline migration.

Common UN Errors

Left unchecked, UN errors can greatly impact subnetwork builds and tracing functionality in the model. Resolving these errors now will result in smoother subnetwork builds once in the UN and enhanced data analytics for your utility.

Listed below are examples of common errors we have helped our partners identify and resolve throughout our migration projects and that require remediation before migration to optimize your Water UN model. UDC has prepared automation tools and checks to help your utility address these issues and expedite error resolution.

Invalid Geometry and Connectivity

Incorrectly drawn features, such as stacked points or cutback lines, in the source data will persist in the UN and can create new geometry errors as well as prevent the building of associated subnetworks. Additionally, geometry configurations that are valid in your source data can cause issues in the target UN model. UDC’s Toolkit for ArcGIS Pro, an expanding group of custom add-in tools, can bulk remodel configurations in the source database into different configurations in the UN. For example, station data can be reconfigured to comply with the UN’s station geometry requirements if the source system does not mandate the same conditions. Certain errors may also require manual remediation.

Geometry errors can have a trickle-down impact on other identified errors. Therefore, resolving these types of errors first in a specific order can correct other types of errors, including missing rules, saving your utility additional manual work. UDC’s assessment program provides instructions for targeting fixes to achieve this downstream effect.

Missing Junctions 

The strict UN connectivity rules ensure facilities are connected properly by requiring that junctions be placed at pipe connection points, as missing junctions in the UN can lead to incomplete subnetworks. UDC recommends conducting reviews of net junctions and prioritizing these placement fixes at critical locations since the absence of these points can produce new invalid connectivity errors in the UN. UDC’s Toolkit can automatically bulk place the identified missing junctions in your source data while concurrently populating the attributes of each feature with predetermined default values. These attributes can be reviewed and updated after migration against your mapping department’s as-builts. 

Hanging Critical Points and Midspan Terminals

The UN requires that subnetwork controllers, including stations and valves, reside at the endpoints of lines. Therefore, disconnected well, station, and valve features can impact subnetwork creation. Connecting these points and updating the line geometry prior to migration, while configuring the subnetwork controllers and terminals as part of a full migration, can save a significant amount of post- migration cleanup and configuration for your utility.

Pipe features that are not split at valves may cause tracing results to appear visually inaccurate in the UN. If an operable device does not split the underlying line, traces will extend past devices with ‘closed’ positions and continue to the endpoint of the line, generating errors. UDC’s Toolkit automatically bulk splits pipes at valves which forces traces to stop at closed operable devices.

Special Characters 

As traceable extents, subnetworks require stringent attribute adherence to properly function in the UN. The occurrence of any characters in the subnetwork controller names deemed restricted by the UN can affect tracing capabilities. We recommend utilities remove symbols from these attribute fields to prevent subnetwork errors during migration. This can be accomplished by querying the fields that will be used as subnetwork controller names for special characters and updating from those results.

Preparing for Your Water Migration

Most municipal water companies, having converted their paper data to the GIS, have managed any upgrades or maintenance in-house. For these utilities, a large-scale implementation can seem overwhelming, especially with vendors being brought on board. However, there are measures you can take now to prepare for migration and guide your utility in finding the right partner for your organization.

Below are recommendations to get your started on your migration journey:

Ask Strategic Questions

Invite potential vendors to share their experiences with UN water migrations. Consider what they recommend for a UN implementation timeline and roadmap for your individual organization’s goals, data, and workflows.

Learn Business Needs

Continue to grow your understanding of the UN, and from this, determine what is beneficial for your organization based on your migration goals – whether that be the advanced tracing and modelling the UN offers or a simple model to manage your water data in ArcGIS Pro. We recommend your utility take a value driven approach when evaluating the new functionality offered by the UN and only add those functionalities that help achieve a desired business outcome.

Start Data Analysis

Begin assessing your data and workflows today and start evaluating whether your data can support your enterprise goals as well as potentially leverage the UN’s advanced subnetwork and tracing functionalities. Examine how your architecture is configured and consider whether it would benefit your users to work in the cloud going forward. 

UDC can help your utility take the first step by performing a data assessment and creating a data readiness plan that helps achieve your enterprise vision for the UN. To learn more about how UDC’s UN Data Assessment Program can help you in your migration journey, we invite you to contact us.