Case Study: City Water Treatment
Plow Technologies received a call from an integration partner working with a mid-sized city in rural Oklahoma. The municipality required a full-scale upgrade to their water treatment data systems. The legacy system was an amalgamation of two separate licensed SCADA and monitoring products.
The city serves more than 22,000 residents in living in their area. The water treatment plant, with a capacity of over 7 million gallons per day, also provides water to 7 additional locations. Water management responsibilities for the region include:
- Full technical operations of a water treatment plant
- Management of a federally designated Sole Source Aquifer
- Monitoring and maintenance of water towers
- Wastewater facility
Plant administrators were exhausted from reports of system outages. Signal connectivity was shoddy, and man hours were consumed sending technicians to check on processes that should have been cared for by the automation system. The prior SCADA system included two licensed products to try to cover all the needs of the facility.
The city wanted a complete overhaul of the water automation network. OnPing would be installed in and responsible for upgrading all existing technical systems. Data management managed
- Lift Stations
- Lift stations are a critical component of the city’s water treatment strategy. Consistent service and control over the stations is needed to move water where it needs to go.
- The wells each require around-the-clock remote monitoring.
- Sole Source Aquifer
- The city manages an outlet of an EPA designated sole source aquifer. This spring produces millions of gallons of water each day. With government oversight involved, precise turbidity data become even more critical to the successful fulfillment of reporting duties.
- Water Treatment Plant
- In 2015, the city made a large expenditure to transform their water treatment process. An old leaking transmission line was causing an estimated loss of 1 million gallons of water per day. With the updates to the facility, it was important to have monitoring and control capabilities that matched the operational expectations of the plant.
- Water Towers
- Wastewater Facility
- The wastewater treatment facility will be brought into OnPing in the next phase of upgrades.
A mistake frequently encountered modern automation projects is overscheduling. Automation is difficult. Each site, location, and organization may have intricacies that are difficult to codify into a system. Mistakes are costly – more-so when the scale of the project is “Everything at Once, Now!” In deference and respect to the importance of a smooth transition for the sake of the local water supply, the city made the decision to implement changes in stages. This had several benefits, including:
- Mitigating the learning curve for their operators
- Reducing upfront capital outlay
- More precise control over the implementation of new monitoring systems
- Eliminated the risk of mass, widescale system failure
Water Treatment – Key Challenges
Connectivity was the reason these folks were looking to make a change in the first place. The previous system relied on old equipment that remained around specifically because it matched up with the requirements of the license. While this would not be a problem for OnPing, making sure reliable communications could be attained would be critical to the success of the job.
- Regulatory Reporting
Regulatory standards are always important in city work, but even more so when handling Sole Source Aquifer designations from the Federal government. The city was already spending lots of extra money
- Out-dated Computer Systems
The computers, and the software on them, were well past their prime. When using computers that haven’t been upgraded in several years, it’s important to have a team working on the project aware of the potential pitfalls of working with older systems. One of the benefits to the city would be upgrading their computers to update system security and open up new levels of productivity available with the newer technology.
Execution and Results
- Piecemeal Approach
Breaking this project into stages was the right decision. Fragmenting the work gave the city space and flexibility to make changes on a micro-scale. This improved the precision with which the system was built – which is crucial in the fully custom build environment OnPing provides.
Also, when dealing with a city utility, the importance of a smooth transition cannot be overstated. The platformability of OnPing tools encourages administrators and operators to work together in finding the best possible fit for the organization at large – instead of being forced into sub-par conditions created by rigid licensed SCADA offerings. With a platformed service each component of the project is broken down into manageable parts. Then, work begins by finding the best possible tool for each segment of work.
The downside to individualizing software solutions is the difficulty in bringing them all together at scale. OnPing, an Industrial Automation Platform, solves this problem through a Data and Protocol Agnostic (DPA) approach. At the edge, the Lumberjack systems work within the framework of individual devices. The Lumberjack can work with any device, and most importantly it is always configured to communicate with OnPing. Because of this relationship, the Lumberjack acts as a versatile on-premises tool, a consistent way to store data locally, and a powerful communication communications that can interact freely with the cloud assets. Tools available on the platform such as Lumberjack Locale made it extremely simple to launch large scale initiatives, even with niche local solutions.
Furthermore, the Lumberjack/OnPing system provide an excellent answer to the reliable connection. First, we were able to provide radio connections deployed with the Lumberjack devices. Secondly, using OnPing to reduce two management systems to one meant fewer moving parts to keep track of.
Where the city was previously hamstrung by a reliance on aged-out licensed products, OnPing created a reliable, networked data management system to fit the city’s budget, regulatory needs, and time line. The flexibility of the OnPing platform returned decision making control and agency to the city to determine which computer systems best fit their needs – without worrying about data management software compatibility.
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