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Critical SCADA System Architecture Recommendations for Water Utilities

SCADA system

If someone asked you what the most important development for all of civilization is, modern water utility service should top the list. Sure, agriculture is good, and the internet is hit and miss, but water utilities take away dirty water and bring us clean water, preventing diseases that have scourged humanity for literally our entire existence.

Needless to say, protecting water utilities is of utmost importance.

They are increasingly vulnerable to changes in the climate, electrical and mechanical failures, flooding, and even terrorist attacks.

That's why, if you run a water utility, you have to monitor everything that goes into making all your units run well, no matter how remote. Everything from physical security to environmental monitoring can be tracked as a part of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA).

You'll need to monitor, gather, and analyze your data in real-time. You'll need to respond, hopefully proactively. And you'll need a system that lets you do all of this quickly. It's important for utilities to have SCADA system architecture that works flawlessly. That's something we can all raise a glass (of clean water) to.

What SCADA System Architecture Can Do For Your Utility

SCADA, to put it most simply, is a network of monitoring or supervisory and control systems that interact throughout your utility system using a variety of sensors and control relays. SCADA gives you the ability to measure and control elements of your system.

What does that mean in practice? It means you can manage and analyze hundreds of distinct events, from humidity to the night shift guy accidentally leaving the door open when he goes for a break. Anything that might impact your utility can be tracked.

Data and alerts are collected by your HMI and stored in a central database.

Important details are programmed to be delivered to the right people at the right time.

These might go to your engineers, or they might go to emergency services. What's important is that the correct people get them in the order that they are needed.

A truly smart SCADA system architecture will allow you to minimize unimportant events and highlight crucial ones, saving you from wasted time while letting you prioritize critical details. And if you work in a water utility, you know what you need to monitor. Solid SCADA system architecture will help you monitor all of your remote operations.

SCADA System Architecture for Remote Monitoring Water Utilities

What are some of the things that your SCADA system architecture can monitor if set up by an established company who knows how to help you capture all important events? It's crucial to monitor all of your critical assets involved in your water utility. This includes:

  • Equipment monitoring. The amount of equipment at a modern water utility plant is staggering. From solid bowl centrifuges to your ultra-filtration systems to the generators that run everything, your system needs to be in constant operation. Any prolonged breakdown can be a disaster. A SCADA system should ensure all your equipment is monitored and supported by built-in alarms in case something goes wrong.
  • Stormwater monitoring. We all watch the news. We know water plants are being overtaxed around the country. Utilities have to know when they need to divert stormwater into reservoirs or sewers, which means they need constant, precise measurements. You can't let your network get deluged at the most critical moments.
  • Filtration monitoring. If we want clean water, we need our filtration systems to be running flawlessly. Monitoring these for any flaws can prevent your equipment from letting in damaging particles or bigger objects.
  • Wastewater treatment. Reverse osmosis doesn't work if there is a breakdown. Wastewater plants have to be running well at all times to protect human health.

Flooding, overheating, overtaxed generators, and more can add up to a disaster. But there are also other issues that your SCADA system needs to monitor.

Avoid Human Error With SCADA

Human error comes in two distinct varieties. Consider:

  1. Site errors made by employees. A meter can be read incorrectly, a valve can be turned too far, a problem can go ignored. Things happen. A SCADA system doesn't let them go unnoticed.
  2. When there's a misdiagnosed problem. Which is better: ignoring a real problem or spending time and resources to go to a site to fix something minor? The answer is neither. A well-programmed SCADA system can help you avoid misdiagnosis, which saves you time and money on both ends.

Human error happens. SCADA can make sure it won't cost you. SCADA systems can save your organization thousands to even millions of dollars over a lifetime.

Protecting Your Utility From Threats

We live in strange times. The threat of foreign and domestic terrorism is all too real. And water utilities are a prime target.

But they don't have to be vulnerable. A great SCADA security system can involve some or all of the following:

  • Motion Sensors - reads motion or activity in the area and ensures that if any unwanted violator is present, it can be deterred.
  • Cameras - IP cameras provide a video image of activity surrounding your valuable assets.
  • Electronic Door and Access Control - by maintaining electronic door control, you'll keep your doors secure with keyless entry and other physical security controls.
  • Equipment Alarms - helps you to receive critical alarms when there is an equipment malfunction or potential problem.
  • Line Cut Detection - You'll receive an alarm anytime a wire is cut, protecting you from copper wire and battery theft.

Only the right people should get in. And you should know when anything is offline, off-balance, or just plain off. After all, the stakes are too high.

The High Cost of Error

Cape Town, South Africa, is running out of water, leading to the tightening of belts and a looming disaster. Areas around the world are facing drinking water shortages due to toxic algae blooms and other environmental causes.

Water utilities are prone to disaster, but also minor errors with huge human and economic costs. A burst main can cause problems for businesses, homes, hospitals, and more. Dirty water can cause widespread sickness.

To avoid that, you want efficient maintenance, including preventative maintenance. That's where SCADA comes in. You can receive an alert as soon as something goes wrong, and can resolve it right away. More sophisticated systems can even automatically and remotely fix some issues.

We know the costs of not being able to properly monitor equipment. So how are you going to get the best SCADA system architecture?

How to Get the Best SCADA System Architecture

It's crucial to implement a SCADA system that helps you manage and streamline your operation. Doing so can save your water utility millions over its lifetime. This means ensuring SCADA that can handle all the discrete events listed above, from environmental monitoring to security.

You'll also want to make sure your system can handle all language protocols, as many utilities have a patchwork of new and legacy equipment.

Having a system that can translate all protocols for a central monitoring computer (HMI) is crucial. It saves money and lets you upgrade piece by piece, rather than all at once.

Finally, you want a company that provides robust support and has expertise in your field. Someone who understands the unique and crucial role that water utilities play, and who understands your unique and vital needs.

As a society, we need our water utilities to work. To do so, you need a SCADA system with built-in monitoring, security, and equipment alarms that help keep your systems up and running. Then, everyone can have clean, accessible water for years to come!

DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help water utilities who need custom-built SCADA system architecture. Our technicians can work with you to find the right SCADA offerings for your specific needs. Reach out and get a quote today!

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