Point of Beginning

Technology Profile: Spatial Integrity

July 23, 2008
Utility improves cadastral data management and accuracy with GIS.

Colorado Springs Utilities uses GIS software to better manage all of its cadastral matters, such as land records and parcel mapping.


With GIS, the utility can visualize the parcels, rights of way, utility easements, preliminary parcels and centerlines in its vast service territory.

The focus for Colorado Springs Utilities (SU) is its attention to the basics--the four core services of electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater services to customers in the Pikes Peak region of central Colorado. The result is a more efficient community-owned utility. Part of this success comes from SU’s effective organization of customer records and cadastral data through an accurate GIS database.

Today, the utility’s service area includes the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs and many of the surrounding suburban residential areas--about 150,000 homes and businesses. Fort Carson Army base, Peterson Air Force Base (AFB) and the United States Air Force Academy also receive water, electric service and gas supply from SU, and Peterson AFB receives wastewater treatment services, as well.

SU’s record includes the highest score ever received in the category of power quality and reliability for a medium-sized utility from a J.D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction survey in 2005. This achievement is due in part to the utility’s long-running success with GIS technology. Numerous departments within SU have used the geospatial software since 1987. Today, several of SU’s corporate systems fully integrate GIS functionality, including its customer information system and work management system.

But without an accurate and up-to-date GIS landbase, the utility’s corporate systems will not operate at their full potential, and SU’s Landbase Services (LBS) Unit of the Planning and Engineering Department is well aware of this fact. LBS is tasked with maintaining records on 189,000 parcels as well as 18,000 right-of-way polygons covering more than 500 square miles of SU service territory.

In an effort to advance its GIS and keep its customer-satisfaction rating high, in January 2006, LBS sought a way to improve the creation, maintenance and updating of cadastral and other survey-related data. After seeing an ArcGIS Survey Analyst demonstration at an ESRI (www.esri.com) User Conference, LBS became a beta tester for the extension’s new workflow called “Cadastral Editor.” Cadastral Editor allows individual parcels and subdivision lots to be entered using coordinate geometry (COGO)-based survey plans. An integrated “Cadastral Fabric” is then developed from all relevant survey and plan data using a Least Squares Adjustment tool for the best-fit representation of the parcel layer.

“We instantly understood the beauty of the Survey Analyst solution that incorporates Cadastral Editor and the Cadastral Fabric data model,” says Larry VonDe Bur, PLS, of the LBS unit. “These tools, including the Least Squares tool, permit better maintenance of the spatial integrity of our data. It gives us sound analysis of measurement data from a wide variety of input sources [including COGO tools and/or survey data collectors] with varying accuracy and reliability. The result is a more realistic modeling of the world of cadastral data.”

SU began utilizing its new software system in the first quarter of 2008. Now, utility surveyors and other staff at SU use ArcGIS Survey Analyst to better manage land records, parcel mapping and other cadastral matters. The toolset is used on subdivision boundaries, parcels, rights of way and easements. Staff members also use the software to efficiently collect, convert and display cadastral data; to serve as a base coverage for utility infrastructure; and to share data throughout the organization with other government entities for cadastral purposes.

In 2005, SU began to evaluate its entire sanitary sewer infrastructure to determine what areas need maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement. As part of the evaluation process, sanitary sewer infrastructure locations and easement records have been and continue to be tied together and analyzed for coexistent locations. When any GIS data anomalies are resolved and updated, more informed decisions can be made about potential infrastructure replacement.

“It’s about truly being able to do parcel maintenance in a very efficient fashion as well as keeping an eye on accuracy,” says Tony Moran, LBS supervisor. “We can better maintain focus on keeping that base data as precise as possible because we build so many things from it. We’re able to do this very effectively without wasting a lot of resources.”

This approach allows for comfort, convenience and value for SU customers.

Manufacturer Information: ESRI, www.esri.com