A Simple Guide to Understanding SCADA for Water Systems

A beginner’s guide to understanding what SCADA is and how SCADA can benefit your water system.

What is SCADA for Water Systems?

To provide communities with clean drinking water, the employment of an accurate and efficient water and wastewater monitoring system is essential. Using data points, system operators use SCADA to locate operational problems in real time. 

SCADA is a control system that gives operators instant access to operational data and production information. Digital monitoring of accurate and up-to-date data allows system operators to make informed decisions regarding operations. 

Computers along with digital networks monitor the entire treatment process, which is now the standard. Before supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), water districts needed employees to physically monitor the system by collecting and analyzing data in real time.  

SCADA is a system that allows plant operators to control processes and provides meaningful, automatic data. It combines hardware components with computer software to collect, monitor, and analyze real-time data. 

System operators use SCADA to record events and control industrial processes remotely. Human-interface machine (HMI) software is used to connect with devices, like pump stations, tanks, meters, valves, sensors, etc. 

Manage Equipment Efficiently

Modern SCADA systems allow water facility operators to efficiently oversee wastewater treatment and manage equipment. SCADA solutions provide actionable data, which result in huge cost savings. 

System operators can mitigate equipment failures or downtime and manage hundreds of assets without actually going to each asset location. The HMI, or user interface, enables system operators to remotely monitor measurements. Examples include: pressures, tank levels, flow rates, power usage, temperature, etc. 

SCADA systems quickly send alarm notifications to system operators when there is a problem  with operations. After a notification is received, the SCADA system data is reviewed, in hopes of identifying the issue. Many SCADA systems can provide diagnostic information. Once the problem is identified, system operators can make a plan to remedy the problem.

Four Essential Layers of SCADA for Water Systems

There are four essential elements of SCADA: (1) field instrumentation, (2) communications network, (3) HMI software, and (4) RTUs/PLCs. 

  1. Field Instrumentation: Field instrumentation performs the acquisition of data. SCADA begins with sensors and control relays. Field instrumentation examples include: level switches, relays, flow meters, pressure gauges, pressure sensors, etc. 
  1. Communications Network: Communication infrastructure is established by executing a variety of communication protocols. Connectivity is wired or wireless, such as radio, cellular, and satellite. In remote locations, a communications network connects SCADA and telemetry. One of the most common technologies used in communications is ethernet.
  1. Human-Interface Machine (HMI) Software: The SCADA platform provides water facility operators with the most value. Field data provides data insights, and orders are sent via the PLCs & RTUs.
  1. RTUs and PLCs: Field instrumentation connects to programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs). These are microcomputers that communicate with objects, such as sensors, HMIs, devices, etc. Without them, devices cannot collect real-time data or execute commands. The RTUs and PLCs transfer data to the SCADA software. The SCADA software disperses, displays, and transforms the data into a form that is easy to interpret. This enables operators to make informed decisions regarding production and downtime.

Other Industries Utilizing SCADA to Monitor & Control Their Operations

Common examples of industries that use SCADA include oil and gas operators within the oil and gas industry, water management facilities, and manufacturing facilities. These facilities prioritize safety, technology, and scalability. Other industries that use SCADA systems include: food and beverage, logistics, manufacturing, power utilities, recycling, and transportation. 

In industrial facilities or manufacturing plants, operators use SCADA platforms to automate typically manual tasks. Utility companies leverage the application to secure vulnerable infrastructure. SCADA is vital to power grids and water supply lines for the purpose of monitoring and controlling operations. 

How Does SCADA Improve Water System Operations?

Improve water operations with SCADA by improving processes, reducing costs, reducing downtime, integrating reporting, and providing remote control from anywhere at any time. With SCADA solutions, operators are empowered to track production and deploy preventative equipment maintenance. 

  1. Reduce costs: SCADA systems provide data in real time, i.e. pump run times, power usage, power failures, flow data, etc. With this essential data, operators can optimize operational efficiency and reduce overhead costs. 
  2. Improve processes: Unexpected downtime adversely affects an operator’s bottom line. Using SCADA, operators can identify inefficient processes and any equipment problems prior to a massive impact to the bottom line.
  3. Reduce downtime: SCADA applications often equip operators with diagnostic tools they can use to repair equipment failures quickly. Modern SCADA solutions have alarm management built-in. Diagnostic tools and alarm management work together to support operators in their efforts to reduce downtime. HMI screens, or user screens, provide operators with a history of trend data. Operators can make quick decisions based on contextual and historical data.
  4. Remote control anywhere and anytime: Cloud-based SCADA systems provide operational visibility and control. Modern SCADA systems with mobile applications give managers or stakeholders remote access to the status of assets. Additionally, they have the ability to set controls without requiring an on-site visit.
  5. Integrate reporting: Canned reports or custom reports help operators streamline their reporting responsibilities. User-friendly HMI allows users to display, download, and schedule the distribution of their reports.

Stay updated with us on LinkedIn

Read More