Real-time data for improved operation and monitoring of water assets

To provide customers with a safe and reliable water supply, water utilities need to have access to accurate information regarding consumption, resources, production and quality. In order to continuously monitor all aspects of the water supply and treatment process, some form of automated system is usually implemented to capture process data in real time, these systems are commonly known as a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA.

Real-time data for improved operation and monitoring of water assets

Water utilities implement SCADA across their assets to monitor and control their operations, from the inlet works and pump stations to treatment and chemical dosing, SCADA provides real time data acquisition to ensure the processes are efficient, reliable and safe.

SCADA can be configured to provide an automated approach to process control while providing estimates of plant production, imports, exports and consumption, as well as giving the operations staff and management an equipment and system-wide view of operation, trend data and alarms.

Enhancing system oversight and management

Water utilities have vast networks of assets, including the many components that make up water and wastewater treatment plants, so having access to real-time data 24/7 is essential to maintain an adequate and high-quality water supply.

Water utilities in Australia service anywhere from tens of thousands to over a million customers in their networks, in order to provide seamless water and sewage services to these customers they need to know how the entire network is operating, how every pump and plant is performing, and which assets are communicating correctly with each other.

Geoff Bladon, Business Development Director at Automation IT, said SCADA systems can monitor the entire network 24/7 and provide water utilities with all the data they require to maintain services and ensure product quality.

“Water utilities are directly responsible for the public’s well-being and water quality is essential to people’s health. To ensure this product quality, water utilities deploy a vast array of sensors that can monitor everything in the network, from flow, to pressure and water quality. All this information is transmitted back to the central SCADA system in real time where operators can analyse it and take immediate action if necessary,” Mr Bladon said.

“A SCADA system can also provide greater insight to behavior, operational status and product quality by leveraging other equipment including CCTV, equipment diagnostics and instrumentation, allowing operators to access them from the control room. If for example, a drinking supply was to be compromised via some means, the utility can be automatically notified within minutes and action taken to prevent the distribution of potentially dangerous product.”

Integrating with network operations

SCADA can be integrated into other network operations, including GPS and weather services allowing decisions to be made based on predictive weather events.

“Integrating SCADA with weather services gives greater control for operators to manage assets based on current and predicted environmental conditions,” Mr Bladon said.

“For example, a major storm could cause treatment infrastructure to overload, leading to blockages, overflows and plant bypass. Using SCADA, the pressure sewer network can be automatically adjusted to ease the load on treatment plants and transfer infrastructure when such events occur. One strategy that can really benefit from predictive modelling is the pumping down of wet wells to low levels prior to the onset of storms to provide additional storage and better flow averaging for the sewage treatment plants.”

A tailored solution

Water utilities have different needs and therefore a tailored SCADA solution is needed in order to get the best results. With the current drive for energy efficiency, there is a constant battle between efficiency of plant operations and practicality of operating the equipment.

“With so many competing agendas, it is critical that the engineering company designing the control system can understand the requirements and effectively balance all the stakeholder’s interests. Our Registered Professional Engineers have played a significant role in several key projects for water utilities, working with all types of water and wastewater treatment, pumping and re-use infrastructure, to ensure the plants are as energy efficient as they can be but still practical for the operators to use day to day,” Mr Bladon said.

“We are independent technical experts and are not attached to any one brand, so we are able to provide an end-to-end solution that is uniquely tailored to meet the specific requirements of each utility regardless of their control product selection.”

“We create fully-documented code and comply with all laws, standards and warranties, making the operation and future maintenance of the system easier.”