How is SCADA Used for Water Systems?

By January 21, 2020 Blog, SCADA
SCADA for water

Water systems take a lot of work to manage. Large and complex by nature, they are difficult to monitor continuously. Nevertheless, water systems are expected to function, on budget, at all times. Keeping the many filtration tanks, pumps, and pipes that make up a water system in operation requires active management and continual maintenance.

Gaps in monitoring equipment activity can result in leaks that spring and widen, clogged filters, broken pumps, and eventually, rusted tanks. To prevent maintenance issues and streamline operations, cities use SCADA for water systems.

SCADA’s Role in Water Systems

Water systems gain many useful abilities by employing modern SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems. SCADA systems collect data from important assets and their immediate environments. That data is displayed on a central computer screen available to technicians and managers.

Viewing asset and environmental data allows managers to make informed operations and maintenance decisions.

Employees can also use the system to control equipment remotely, enabling active and accurate responses to changes in asset usage or conditions.

These abilities help water systems reduce costs, lower risk, and handle operations more efficiently. To understand how, let’s study some of the different SCADA applications for water systems.

Applications of SCADA for Water Systems 

SCADA has a broad range of applications. Their monitoring functions allow real-time insights across filtration plants, pump stations, and entire distribution networks.

Each piece of equipment that requires monitoring, from valves to tanks, can be equipped with sensors. Control relays can be installed on equipment like pumps, valves, UV emitters, or booms.

Sensors and control relays are attached to remote terminal units (RTUs). Multiple remote terminal units at different sites transmit their information to a single master station which displays the information in a browser. For especially large water systems, several master stations can be controlled by a single top-level master.

Each aspect of a large water system derives unique benefits from a SCADA system: 

Filtration Plants

SCADA systems can monitor tank levels, chemical levels, ultraviolet (UV) intensity, and environmental conditions, as well as pumps, valves, and filters.

  • Remote monitoring of filtration plants allows managers to detect conditions requiring maintenance immediately without needing to send staff out on rounds.
  • Control relays enable operational adjustments with the click of a mouse.

Pump Stations

Pump stations in urban and rural areas alike are widespread and numerous. Rather than staffing each pump station full-time, or relying on periodic inspections, water systems can monitor each pump from a single location. This:

  • Delivers fine control over the entire network
  • Improves routine operations and emergency response
  • Provides accurate, timely maintenance information

Distribution and Sewer Networks

Water distribution networks are comprised of hundreds of miles of pipe. Sewer and stormwater systems sprawl and maze similarly. Monitoring an entire network requires continual pressure and volume readings from numerous sites.

With a SCADA system, information on the entire network can be collected and displayed at once, drastically improving managerial overview. This:

  • Reduces the manual labor needed to check meters
  • Cuts costs while improving service

Water safety can be monitored by the same system, protecting residents. 

Site Security

Water infrastructure is vulnerable to vandalism, theft, sabotage, or terrorism. Preventing unauthorized access to important sites including filtration plants, pump stations, and storage facilities helps protect the valuable assets stored within. 

SCADA systems can monitor door alarms, motion sensors, and video cameras, alerting security personnel to intruders.

Control relays can close doors, and activate sirens and lights to deter trespassers. 

In addition to its direct effects, SCADA systems simplify another indispensable task:

Record Keeping

With asset, equipment, and operational information all flowing through the same central system, there’s no need to tediously transfer information from one media to another for analysis or storage. This:

  • Reduces the amount of time spent on routine labor
  • Frees employees for more pressing tasks

The records kept can be used to demonstrate regulatory compliance or to generate insights into operations. 

Upgrading Existing Water Systems with SCADA Capabilities

Often, utilities and treatment plants have some elements of SCADA for water systems already in place, such as sensors or remote terminal units.

Before installing new equipment, water systems should audit their existing systems. Legacy sensors or RTUs can communicate with modern SCADA systems as long as they’re connected via the right master station.

Choosing the right provider of SCADA equipment helps ensure success. SCADA systems can be immense, complicated, and used for multiple purposes. So, it’s important to partner with a company with significant experience in how to maximize SCADA for water systems. DPS’ industry knowledge and expertise can help you identify the most cost-effective ways to integrate new capabilities into your existing systems. 

DPS Telecom has deep and intricate experience developing and installing SCADA systems. Our experts can help you maximize the value of your existing equipment for your system’s future. Reach out and get a quote today!

Image courtesy Shutterstock

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson has been building remote monitoring systems for his clients since 2006, both in the United States and internationally. He has been a featured speaker at a variety of national telco, utility, radio, and rail conferences.

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