Tucson Water Department Automates QA/QC with Data Quality Management Tool
Clean water is vital to the health of communities and is essential for daily living. Tucson Water Department (Tucson Water) serves more than 722,000 customers in the city of Tucson, Arizona, and its neighboring communities and strives to ensure that all its customers receive high-quality water in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Providing clean water for this growing city involves a complex infrastructure that requires a team of dedicated people to manage.
Accurate data is important to help Tucson Water make informed decisions on how to best maintain its infrastructure, which includes assets like water mains, valves, and services. This ensures that planned maintenance can be conducted, and assets can be repaired, replaced, or upgraded when needed.
The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Services division of Tucson Water implemented a complete data quality management system that has automated quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) checks and improved data accuracy, helping the water department make data-driven decisions and meet the consistent demand for clean water.
The GIS division of Tucson Water collects and maintains data to aid in mapping all underground assets in Tucson, which helps the team manage the water infrastructure. The variety of data collected includes the diameters of pipes, the plan numbers associated with the installed pipes, and what year the pipes were installed. This information gives a clear representation of the system, which is important when creating a sound hydraulic model. Analyzing the hydraulic behavior is a good tool to help plan for future water demand, identify water resource opportunities, and manage challenges that lie ahead.
Clean data is vital to GIS operations
Tucson Water Department
Identify and fix network connectivity issues that impact valve isolation trace results when addressing leaks in the water system.
ArcGIS Data Reviewer - an extension for ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Enterprise
Reduced errors leading to increased confidence in the data.
Since data is key to efficient day-to-day operations and ensuring that the need for clean water is met, Tucson Water has detailed QA/QC geographic information system (GIS) editing standards to safeguard data accuracy. However, with only manual checks in place, mistakes were more likely to be made due to human error, and the process of reviewing data was time-consuming.
"We have a really small GIS staff, and as a result, it was impossible for us to keep up with all the details of QA/QC," says Terri Bunting, GIS supervisor at Tucson Water. "So, we were looking into a new solution to help us more efficiently do our QA/QC and simplify the processes."
The project that prompted this search was a valve isolation trace, which helps identify and manage the impact of a leak on a water system and customers. The GIS team was analyzing data and noticed about 15,000 generic network junctions (or orphans) in the database, which indicate a break in the connectivity of the network. Lorena Baltierrez, lead GIS technician at Tucson Water, notes that these junctions were causing connectivity issues and the team needed a quick way to identify them.
She explains, "We found that a lot of our valves were not connected to the geometric network within the database. Another thing was that when doing visual QC, we had to go in manually and make sure that everything was connected and that all attributes were complete."
A new solution was needed to provide high-quality, reliable data to better assist field staff and management in making data-driven decisions. Baltierrez and Bunting knew the data could be better than what it was.
Baltierrez says, "Data drives most business decisions here, and [I believe] you're only as good as your data. So, our goal was to provide the best data possible."
Bunting adds, "We probably have 300 out of 550 people that work at the water utility and access GIS data daily. And to do their jobs efficiently, they need to have accurate data. They need to know what's out there, where it is, and what tools they need to take with them to work on things."
Bunting selected ArcGIS Data Reviewer to help streamline QA/QC and improve data reliability. ArcGIS Data Reviewer provides a complete system for automating and simplifying data quality control. Bunting saw a demonstration of ArcGIS Data Reviewer and participated in a complimentary data health check at the Esri User Conference and, impressed with its capabilities, thought the solution could work for Tucson Water.
The City of Tucson already had an Esri enterprise agreement (EA) with a suite of available products, including ArcGIS Data Reviewer. Bunting reached out to their technical adviser through Esri's Advantage Program (AP) for deploying the solution. The program helps users successfully leverage Esri products in their organization.
Michelle Johnson, an Esri geodata engineer, conducted a multiday on-site workshop with the seven-member GIS team, helping them implement the tool and configure it for their own QA/QC processes. Bunting says Johnson covered the capabilities thoroughly so that the group knew how to use it in their daily work. Having an established GIS Editing Standards document made it easier to determine the checks that needed to be configured in ArcGIS Data Reviewer.
"We learned so much in those few days. Michelle helped us set up ArcGIS Data Reviewer and get it going, and it is proving to be a tremendous tool for improving the quality of our data. It's amazing some of the things that we can set up now," says Bunting. "It was very exciting to think that we could now really have an automated approach to making our data better."
The checks are made available to each of the editors. When an editor completes mapping the features in the area assigned to them, they run the automated checks, review and correct any errors found, and submit the data. After this is complete, Baltierrez runs it through the automated checks again and visually inspects the data for added validation. This catches any errors that the editors might have missed.
"There would be some errors in the data that were outside their area of interest that I could catch that were not caught by the editor. The data reviewer allows the QC check to go beyond the extent of the individual project," says Baltierrez.
The use of ArcGIS Data Reviewer has yielded positive benefits for Tucson Water. The GIS team was able to reduce the number of generic network junctions in their water utility network from 15,000 to 1,100 with ArcGIS Data Reviewer, which Baltierrez says "was a great accomplishment."
Bunting says, "Reducing generic network junctions was a big deal for the valve isolation trace tool. I think once we understood what those problems were, we actually went in [and fixed them quickly], which was great because you can't just delete network junctions."
The ArcGIS Data Reviewer automated QA/QC checks allowed the team to move away from the manual checks previously in place. Bunting explains that before using ArcGIS Data Reviewer, checking attributes was a very lengthy process.
"Before, I would put the attributes in order, highlight them, look on a map, and say, 'Are all the mains that go to the hydrants six inches in diameter?' And you'd have to do that for everything manually," says Bunting. "And now, [with ArcGIS Data Reviewer] it frees up a lot of our time to do other things because it's automatically doing most of our checks."
"If we didn't have ArcGIS Data Reviewer right now, I can't even imagine … the amount of time that it would take to check all these things," says Bunting. "It's really nice after running the checks to see the list of issues. Even if there are several issues, we understand what the problem is and know exactly what we need to do to fix it."
ArcGIS Data Reviewer also enables editors to check their work and fix them immediately, reducing errors being introduced into the data.
"Because editors can check their work before it's handed to me, time is saved on QC. ArcGIS Data Reviewer helps point out to them what's wrong so there aren't as many new errors that come through," says Baltierrez. "And if there is an error that came through, like, 'oh, I didn't put in the right diameter,' it's an easy fix."
Baltierrez adds, "ArcGIS Data Reviewer also helps instill the GIS Editing Standards into the work of editors, augmenting their knowledge of the business rules in place."
Another benefit of ArcGIS Data Reviewer is the ability to provide metrics. Bunting says they have gone from upper management asking questions about what they are working on to being able to provide them with a detailed report of what they've accomplished.
"We can give them a report and say, 'This is what we're doing. This is how much we've done. This is what needs to be done.' Everybody wants metrics, and we can do that now," says Bunting.
Overall, the confidence in the data delivered has greatly improved, producing superior results both internally and for water customers.
"I have a lot of confidence in the integrity of our data, especially now that I know there are ways to fix it if there is something wrong. I can create checks for different purposes and look for different types of errors," says Baltierrez. "ArcGIS Data Reviewer makes our data better."
We have so much more confidence in our data with ArcGIS Data Reviewer. We can walk into a room and feel good about having a conversation with someone because we know exactly where our data stands and what we need to do to fix it.