Utility network vocabulary

Essential utility network terms are listed along with their descriptions.


Analytics is the process of analyzing the utility network data to perform inspections of the network (utility network traces) and schematically represent the whole or parts of the utility network (network diagrams).

Asset group

The asset group attribute represents the major classification of utility network classes. The ASSETGROUP field is part of the schema for all classes in the structure network and domain network, with the exception of the SubnetLine class. It is also defined as the subtype field. Subtype values are configured to define the major classification of your assets. Further classification of assets is accomplished by assigning attribute domains at the subtype level on the ASSETTYPE field.

To learn more, see Utility feature classification.

Asset type

The asset type attribute represents the minor classification of utility network classes. This allows further classification for each asset group. The ASSETTYPE field is part of the schema for all classes in the structure and domain network, with the exception of the SubnetLine class. To extend the classification of assets, attribute domains are assigned on the ASSETTYPE field at the subtype level (asset group) for each network class. This allows for a rich classification of network features using the asset group as a major classification and asset type as a minor classification..

To learn more, see Utility feature classification.


Associations enable the modeling of connectivity, containment, and structural attachment between nonspatial and non-coincident network features.

Learn more about associations


You can connect network features in a utility network to each other in two basic ways: either with a shared endpoint, vertex, or point (common x-, y-, and z-values) or with a defined connectivity association between two features or objects that are not spatially coincident. This is called connectivity.

Learn more about connectivity and traversability


A pump placed at the end of a water pipe will have connectivity established because of the shared location.

Complex edge

A complex edge allow resources to enter one end of the edge and exit the other end. They also allow resources to flow in or out along the edge without the need to physically split the edge. This behavior is supported with complex edges because they allow midspan connectivity.

Connectivity association

Junction-junction connectivity associations are used to establish a relationship between two point features or junction objects. Junction-junction connectivity associations also support connectivity between terminals on features. You can define connectivity associations for point feature classes and junction object tables in the domain network and structure network as long as network rules exist to support the association. Two point features, such as a transformer and fuse, that are not coincident can be offset from each other by x and y or z while connectivity is maintained through a connectivity association.

Learn more about connectivity associations


A container represents an assembly of network features that are normally referenced as a single feature on a map. For example, an electrical switchgear container feature contains internal switches, fuses, and a busbar, which are important for tracing analysis, but a map showing all these internal features would be too dense. You can connect network features or objects inside a container to features or objects outside a container.


Electrical substations and pumping stations are examples of container features.

Containment edit mode

Containment edit mode is enabled using the Enter Containment command in the Associations group on the Utility Network tab. In this mode, created features that have a supporting rule are automatically added to the active container as content. Editing in containment edit mode shows what network features are inside the active container and how they are connected. Analysis results are also shown inside the container view.


While editing an assembly of features, you will usually enter containment edit mode. New features that are created are automatically added as content for the assembly.

Containment associations

Containment allows a dense collection of features to be represented by a single feature. For example, devices, wires, and conductors can be placed inside of features such as substations, switch gears, trenches, and ducts. Content features can be shown or hidden in the map view to improve visibility and reduce map clutter. Features that contain other features are known as a container and the features being contained are known as content.

Learn more about containment associations

Database utility network owner

When working with a utility network stored in an enterprise geodatabase, there are two owners for a utility network dataset: the database owner and the portal owner.

The database utility network owner is determined by the database user used in the data source when a utility network is created. You must access the utility network as the database utility network owner for configuration and publishing tasks.

Diagram view

The diagram view shows a schematic view of your network. A diagram is a symbolic representation of features in a utility network with an applied visualization technique. Diagrams can also show the results of a tracing analysis.


At an electric utility, one type of diagram view is called a one-line diagram.


Directionality defines how resources flow through terminals on a feature. All terminal configurations require directionality to be defined as directional or bidirectional. A directional terminal configuration indicates that the network commodity can travel only one way through a device or junction object. A bidirectional terminal configuration indicates that the network commodity can travel in either direction through the Device or JunctionObject; there are no distinct upstream or downstream terminals.

See Terminal management for more information.

Dirty areas

Dirty areas mark modified features in a map that are out of date in the network topology. Dirty areas are used as visual cues to show the areas that must be validated to maintain the network topology. Dirty areas are cleared when the network topology is validated.


A new medium-voltage line is constructed in the map, and a new dirty area is created that is visible around this feature.

Disjoint subnetwork

If subnetwork controllers that share the same subnetwork name cannot be traversed to one another, the subnetwork is considered disjoint. For tiers in a partitioned domain network, the Set Subnetwork Definition geoprocessing tool includes a Support Disjoint Subnetworks option. The default is to not support disjoint subnetworks for partitioned domain networks. Tiers in a hierarchical domain network always have this option to support disjoint subnetworks set as true. You can view this property of the tier using the Network Properties tab of the utility network properties.

Domain network

When you create a utility network, you add one or more domain networks to it. A domain network is an industry-specific collection of feature classes and tables such as electric distribution or gas transmission. Sometimes a utility network will have two domain networks at the transmission level and distribution level. A utility network can also have crossing domain networks, such as gas and water, if they are both managed by that utility.


An electric, gas, or water utility may have two domain networks for modeling the delivery of its resource: transmission and distribution.

Edge elements

The utility network comprises a logical network of junction and edge elements. Edge elements compose the logical component of edge (or line) features in a utility network. A complex edge feature is associated with a set of junction and edge elements in the logical network.


A water main represented by a single line feature may be composed of multiple edge elements separated by taps for service lines. In the example below, the addition of a junction with midspan connectivity creates a single line (or edge) feature comprised of multiple edge elements.

The presence of junctions with midspan connectivity along a line (or edge) feature creates a feature composed of multiple edge elements.

Enterprise deployment

An enterprise deployment is the primary deployment pattern for a utility network that employs an enterprise geodatabase to publish, edit, and work with services from ArcGIS Enterprise. This services-based architecture allows for multiuser access and the sharing of a utility network across all platforms (desktop, mobile, and web).

Learn more about the alternate single-user deployment pattern with file and mobile geodatabases.

Geometric coincidence

When two or more features exist in the same x-, y-, and z-location, they are geometrically coincident.


Sometimes features can occupy the same x- and y-locations, such as devices stacked on a pole. Assigning z-values features at the same x- and y-locations will help ensure features are not geometrically coincident.

Inconsistent subnetwork

When a subnetwork has multiple subnetwork controllers and the Subnetwork Name attribute is not consistent, the subnetwork is considered inconsistent. For example, in a subnetwork with five subnetwork controllers, four of the subnetwork controllers have the correct subnetwork name, while the fifth has a different name.

If inconsistent subnetworks are discovered during the update process, an error is returned in the Update Subnetwork tool and errors are generated for the subnetwork controllers. Inconsistent subnetworks are also reported when performing a subnetwork trace.

Learn more about updating subnetworks.

Junction-edge connectivity rule

A junction-edge connectivity rule is a type of connectivity rule that governs which junction network features you can be connect to endpoints or vertices of lines and edge object classes.


You can connect a switch to the endpoint of a medium-voltage line.

Junction-junction connectivity rule

A junction-junction connectivity rule is a type of connectivity rule that governs the junction and junction object classes that can be connected to other junction or junction object classes. Applying this rule allows a connectivity association to be defined between two disjointed classes.


You can connect a capacitor to a switch.

Map view

The map view shows a cartographic display of your utility network. When edits are performed, dirty areas appear on the map showing where the network topology is not current.

Midspan connectivity

When connecting network features to a line or edge object, you can make connections at either the endpoints or the midspan vertices. Using the midspan vertices allows you to create network features without breaking network lines where the physical line is continuous.


A typical location for midspan connectivity is where a service drop connects to an electric distribution line. Subnetwork taps also occur midspan of line features and edge objects.

Network attribute

Network attributes are associated with attributes on feature classes and object tables in your network. They are derived from the network feature's attributes and cached inside the network topology to aid in performance while attributes are evaluated during a trace or while performing subnetwork management tasks. The values stored as attributes for features and objects are reflected or updated in the associated network attribute each time you validate the network topology.


You can model electric phases as a network attribute so that a trace can be run on only one of three electric phases.

You can define pipe diameters as a network attribute to constrain gas and water traces.

Network categories

A network category is a tag used to represent a characteristic of an asset in your network. They are created and assigned to network features for specific asset group and asset type combinations.

See Network categories for more information.


You can use a network category of Protective to limit traces of electric network features to devices or equipment that is used to protect the system, such as fuses or reclosers.

Network diagrams

Network diagrams provide a simplified view of a network, which is useful for different types of engineering analysis. These are also called schematic representations and apply user-specified algorithms to collapse nonessential features and highlight crucial features for an engineer's view of the network.


A one-line diagram for electric utilities is a network diagram.

Network topology

The network topology enables tracing analysis and rapid retrieval of network features. When edits occur on a utility network, affected parts of the network topology are displayed as dirty areas to indicate that the network topology does not match the edited features. The network topology stores all types of associations—connectivity, containment, and structural attachment—in the utility network. A validate network topology operation updates the associations in the area where edits took place and produces accurate tracing results.

To learn more, see Network topology.

Nonspatial objects

Junction and edge objects are nonspatial network objects used to model and work with a large number of real-world features that share a common geographical space, for example, the strands inside of a fiber cable or conductors in an underground duct. This allows organizations to model their network in more detail without the need to create features with shapes for every asset.

To learn more, see Junction and edge objects.

Portal utility network owner

When working with a utility network stored in an enterprise geodatabase, there are two owners for a utility network dataset: the database owner and the portal owner.

The active portal user when the utility network is created serves as the portal dataset owner. The portal utility network owner must meet certain requirements and prerequisites. Having the portal utility network owner signed in is a prerequisite for certain network configuration tasks as well as for publishing utility network layers. Tools that require an active portal connection with the portal utility network owner list this requirement in the usage notes.

When accessed from a database connection established as the database utility network owner, the portal utility network owner is listed in the General section of the Network Properties dialog box.

Learn more about updating the portal utility network owner

Preset template

A preset template allows an editor to quickly place a complex collection of features. Preset templates create all types of needed associations as well as place network features. Preset templates are part of the core ArcGIS Pro editing framework and work with the association framework in the utility network.


A preset template places a switchgear container with all its internal switches, fuses, and busbars and connects them properly.

Service territory

The service territory is an m- and z-enabled polygon feature class containing one or more features. This is used as input when creating a utility network. The extent of the features in the service territory feature class are used to define the network extent. The network extent is a single polygon feature that is calculated by aggregating the spatial extents of all input features; it is created slightly larger than the aggregated extent from the input service territory features. You can view the polygon that encompasses the network extent by displaying the dirty area for a utility network when the network topology is disabled.

The network extent represents the area in which the network topology is maintained. This also restricts the editable area for all of the structure network and domain network features collectively. To restrict the creation of network features at a finer level, create a constraint attribute rule using Arcade geometry functions such as Intersects as part of the script expression.


A service territory spans the operational area of a utility. It can be roughly the area of a city, state, or province.

Single-user deployment

A single-user deployment is an alternate deployment pattern for a utility network stored in a file or mobile geodatabase that provides access to the full analytic capability of the utility network. While concurrent access is enabled for read-only operations, locking processes on a mobile geodatabase and at the feature dataset level of a file geodatabase prevent editing by more than one user.

Learn more about using an enterprise deployment to configure a utility network on an enterprise geodatabase.

Structural attachment association

A structural attachment association allows the modeling of supporting structures and attachments in a network. Often, a utility needs to report what structural features, such as poles, are associated with a subnetwork, or it may need to locate a manhole where a critical piece of equipment can be reached. Structures are not part of the network for purposes of tracing the resource, but there is a need to quickly identify and list structures that have network features attached to them. Structural attachments logically associate structure features with other features in a utility network. These associations allow you to model the relationship between structures that support equipment and associated assets that are attached. For example, a pole can serve as the structure, with a transformer as the attachment.

  • A structure can have many attachments (for example, a pole with a transformer, ground, riser, and arrester attached to it).
  • Attachment features, such as platforms, can also be associated with multiple poles (structures).

Learn more about structural attachments

Structure network

Every utility network has a structure network that represents the classes that support the devices and lines that convey a resource. All domain networks in a utility network share a common structure network.


An electric network has poles, pads, cabinets, and other structural features that are utility assets but do not directly carry the delivered resource.


A subnetwork represents a topological subpart within a tier where all the connected features are defined by the same subnetwork controller or controllers. To create a subnetwork, a subnetwork controller is set, the network topology is validated, and the subnetwork is updated.

To learn more, see Subnetworks.


Subnetworks are called circuits in electric systems and pressure zones in gas and water systems.

Subnetwork-based trace

There are many core trace types provided with the Trace geoprocessing tool. Subnetwork-based traces rely on information from the subnetwork trace configuration. This is part of the subnetwork definition for a tier and is used to limit the scope of the trace results when specifying the Domain Network and Tier parameters in the Trace tool.

Subnetwork-based traces that use the subnetwork definition in the trace configuration include the following:

Learn more about utility network trace types

Subnetwork controller

A subnetwork controller is a type of network feature from which a resource is delivered or collected. A subnetwork controller type is defined for each domain network, and when the tier is configured, it is defined to use one or more of the controllers in the domain network. You can configure certain asset group and asset types to allow them to be set as subnetwork controllers; this is done by assigning a network category. Subnetwork controllers are set for device features and junction objects using a specific terminal and are used as start or end points for tracing analysis.

Learn more about subnetwork controllers


For an electric system, a subnetwork controller for electricity is a power-generating station or substation. For a gravity-fed system, a subnetwork controller can be a reservoir for a water delivery system.

System junction

A system junction is a hidden network feature that is placed at the endpoint of a network edge element when there is no user-defined junction. System junctions are generated during the initial enabling of the network topology or through validating the network topology. These features are hidden in the map view, but you can display them in a network diagram view.

There are a few situations in which system junctions are created:

  • A single edge element with no user-defined junctions at the endpoints
  • Two edge elements that share an endpoint and do not have a user-defined junction connecting them
    • If the edge features have the same Asset group and Asset Type attributes, a system junction is created between the edge features and connectivity is established.
    • If the edge features have different Asset group and Asset Type attributes, a system junction is created at the end of each edge feature, and connectivity is not established. Errors are created.
Learn more about feature restrictions


Terminals model physical connections on a class such as a Device or JunctionObject. While terminals are not required, there are cases where terminals are necessary. Classes that serve as a subnetwork controller requires terminals when there are three or more connections to the feature. The use of terminals allows a more realistic modeling of some features and enables more accurate data exchange to external analytic systems.

See Terminal management and Terminals for more information.


A transformer has high- and low-side terminals. A circuit breaker has source-side and load-side terminals.

Terminal configuration

A terminal configuration defines how a resource can flow within a network feature that has defined terminals. When you create a terminal configuration, you define whether the resource can flow in both directions or only one direction, the name of terminals, whether a terminal is on the upstream or downstream side of the network feature, which paths between terminals are valid, and the default path through terminals. Once created, a terminal configuration is assigned to an asset type of an asset group in the Device feature class or JunctionObject table.


A delta-wye transformer has a terminal configuration that specifies the valid pathways between the high-side and low-side terminals.


Tiers are used to segregate and manage the final architectural piece of a network: subnetworks. A single tier defines a collection of individual subnetworks that all share the same properties and adhere to the same restrictions. Properties are defined when you add a domain network and create tiers for the utility network. These properties determine the layout of tiers and their position relative to the rest of the tiers in a domain network.

For more information, see Network hierarchies with tiers and Tiers.


You can model an electric distribution domain network with two tiers, where the medium-voltage tier starts at the load-side terminal of the outbound circuit breaker of the substation. The circuit breaker converts transmission-level voltages to medium-level voltages and traverses all the lines and devices until it reaches the high-side terminal of distribution transformers, which convert electric power to low voltages.

Trace analysis

Common types of analysis done with a network involve traces. A utility may want to know every network feature that is connected to a source, find loops in a network, or find all network features upstream or downstream from a selected point. Some types of traces are constrained by specific devices, such as protective devices, and the definitions of those device types are specified by device categories in a domain network.


Examples of trace analysis are upstream traces, downstream traces, and connected traces.


Two related concepts in the utility network are connectivity and traversability. Connectivity describes the potential range of the resource flow (electricity, water, gas, or other). Traversability describes the actual range of resource flow according to the current state of devices that can impede flow, such as valves or switches. The definition of subnetworks that are delimited by the present status of interrupting devices (switches and valves) illustrates the concept of traversability.

Learn more about connectivity and traversability


A water system can have many connected pipes, but closed valves disconnect zones of water delivery from one another. Both point and line features can be disabled, limiting the flow of a resource.

Unlocatable objects

Nonspatial junction and edge objects are represented visually through associations with another feature. Associations are also used to determine the location of an object. If this association is deleted, this can create a scenario in which the junction or edge object is unlocatable. Junction and edge objects are referred to as unlocatable when they do not have a connectivity association, do not serve as content, or are not structurally attached to a feature in their association hierarchy.

Learn more about locatability

Utility network

A utility network is a geodatabase dataset that provides advanced capabilities to visualize, edit, and analyze your network data in ArcGIS. It is the main component users work with when managing utility and telecom networks in ArcGIS, providing a comprehensive framework of functionality for the modeling of utility systems such as electric, gas, water, storm water, wastewater, and telecommunications.

A utility network is a collection of domain networks (gas, water, electric, or other) plus a structure network. An organization specifies the set of domain networks that it manages when it configures a utility network. You can define associations across domain networks and enable tracing analysis across those domains. For example, you can perform electric tracing analysis from transmission to distribution levels with a utility network with electric transmission and electric distribution domain networks.

Learn more about a utility network


A utility network can contain multiple domain networks. This enables the utility to define associations from common structures. For example, a municipal utility can manage poles that carry cable TV and electrical power.

Utility Network Version

When a utility network is created or upgraded, the Utility Network Version value is recorded in the General section of the Network Properties tab on the Network Properties dialog box.

Learn more about the Utility Network Version