How to best disburse water and wastewater has been pondered since the dawn of civilization. Bronze Age societies were able to manage basic sewer networks leading out of the city. Today, the advanced systems that pump and process water and wastewater under our communities are a necessity of everyday life.
In one major American city, the public works department manages an extensive water system that supplies water to more than 800,000 people. Water in the city and surrounding area flows to 116 pump stations, and those stations feed water and wastewater into 16 processing plants.
The pump stations are designed to handle a predictable daily flow. But as population density increases, the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure becomes increasingly complex and difficult to maintain. An unpredictable event such as a heavy rain or a clogged pump could lead to water exceeding a pump’s capacity, resulting in overflows that can be harmful to public health and the environment.
Access to pump operational data was needed to help workers respond to such events, and to help the department meet its obligations to the EPA.
Flushing Out Inefficient Data Access
Without operational data from remote stations, operators couldn’t see problems at pump stations until well after operations were interrupted. At the same time, the public works department was tasked under a consent decree issued by the EPA to update its SCADA system with operational data from pump stations.
“We knew delivering operational data was required, and we already had the capability to measure the amount of an overflow,” said a supervisor for the public works department. “We could pull a certain time period from our data logs, and a report could be provided within a few hours.”
A server housed in a department facility stored 15,000 data points measuring water levels, flow and run time. To provide a report, files were first exported to excel and then manipulated.
Starting in 2011, the department’s engineers and contractors turned their attention to another section of their consent decree: creating a flow model of the sewer system. The shift meant that in addition to overflow data, operational reports would be required from the pump stations.
“One hundred and sixteen pump stations with 15,000 I/O points create a considerable amount of data,” the supervisor said. “Some reports could take hours to compile. In some cases, mining the data for specific trends was nearly impossible without pre-configured procedures for processing incoming data.”
There was no way to collate the needed data in a coherent, timely manner. The department needed a wastewater solution that could efficiently provide any engineer or contractor reports with timely, relevant information.