Case Study

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Award-Winning Wastewater Treatment Facility Standardizes System

City of College Station reduces operational costs and downtime with plantwide control solution from Rockwell Automation

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  • Aging control system was putting a strain on staff and providing little to no access into real-time process data



  • Increased production from 8.1 million gallons per day to 11.8 million gallons.
  • Reduced energy costs by $65,000 annually.
  • Reduced spare parts inventory from $250,000 to less than $20,000 per year.
  • Standardized solution eased troubleshooting and maintenance.
  • Decreased downtime through remote troubleshooting capabilities and virtualized servers.


Home to the main campus of Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas has a population of nearly 100,000.

The city runs a groundwater production transmission system and wastewater treatment facility that services more than 100,000 people and produces up to 27 million gallons of water at peak demand during the summer.

Pumping groundwater from wells around the county, the College Station Water Services (CSWS) cools the water and transports it through water lines to a second pump station for further treatment. From there, water is transported into the distribution system and two elevated storage tanks.

Raw wastewater travels through a network of over 275 miles of wastewater collection lines to one of two award-winning wastewater treatment plants owned and operated by the city of College Station.

The complex process requires a sophisticated control system to help ensure efficiency and regulatory compliance.


Over the past two decades, CSWS has worked to increase city water production and delivery capacity, as well as improve the water quality and treatment process.

To help accomplish these goals, CSWS planned to replace outdated equipment with one integrated process control/SCADA system.


In 2009, CSWS recognized the existing control hardware at their facility was reaching the end of its life cycle. With risk of obsolescence, the system needed to be upgraded before it started to fail.

The facility ran 24 hours per day, and keeping equipment operational on a failing system was putting a strain on the technical support staff. CSWS ran on disparate systems, and issues were difficult to resolve due to multiple vendors, lack of local support, and absence of troubleshooting tools.

In addition to an antiquated control system, CSWS had been using the same human-machine interface (HMI) system for 15 years. “We had little to no access to real-time information with our outdated equipment,” said Mike Kellogg, SCADA systems analyst, CSWS.

“The industry was beginning to move toward integrated systems, and with our existing systems we were in jeopardy of being left behind.” Ultimately, CSWS needed a way to better visualize and understand its optimum operating conditions.

An information-enabled system would help the city see how changes over time – such as environmental and population fluctuations – were impacting water production, and would help the city proactively respond to those changes.


City-owned utilities are required by law to take three competitive bids to ensure the best value for taxpayer dollars.

“We researched several vendors before making our selection,” said Kellogg. “Ultimately, we chose to work with Rockwell Automation on our process control system upgrade, and leverage its PartnerNetwork™ program and technical support team.”

CSWS worked with Rockwell Automation to implement a single, plantwide SCADA solution phased-in over four years. The PlantPAx solution integrates all operations - process, discrete and motor control – into one system to help increase efficiencies and productivity across CSWS’s entire operation.

The PlantPAx system is based on open communication standards leveraging EtherNet/IP™ as its backbone. Designed and established to connect across applications, from the instrumentation level up to CSWS’s IT infrastructure, EtherNet/IP streamlines control and information flow, and offers the best pathway to single network architecture.

It also provides site operators with remote access, real-time diagnostics and electronic documentation to help minimize downtime and improve equipment performance.

CSWS replaced its two-speed pumps with variable frequency drives on cooling fans, water service pumps, lift pumps, biofeed pumps, centrifuges and wasting pumps.

The drives gradually ramp the speed of the motor up and down to help save energy, and help extend the life of the motor and related equipment. They are configured to provide additional production data by gathering information at the drive level and automatically dispersing it to any part of the plant through the PlantPAx system.


As part of the upgrade, CSWS re-evaluated its existing SCADA system alarm definitions to help ensure alarms were used where needed and nuisance alarms were reduced.

“We assessed all of our definitions for critical alarms and re-configured our alarming to make sure all were defined correctly,” said Kellogg.

“The alarm count on the original system was about 600, and we now have close to 1,000 alarms in place.” Using the WIN-911 tool from Rockwell Automation Encompass™ Partner, Spector Instruments, CSWS streamlined alarm management with remote access and control capabilities.

The tool is used to notify city operators of alarms via their mobile phone or email. If the operator does not respond within the allotted response rate, an escalation function notifies the next person in line until someone is reached and addresses the alarm.

The new system also includes a process historian that collects and analyzes 12 months of process data (versus the 30 days of data in its old system).

The city now has access to real-time and historical water trends, such as system demands, levels and storage.

“We work in a cyclical industry, so insight to trends can help us more easily prepare for a major event, such as a water-main break or a major rainfall,” said Kellogg.

“The data can also help estimate population growth trends, so we’re prepared to meet demand.” Utilizing change-management hierarchy, the new system incorporates role-based security for operators and plant personnel.

It’s also equipped for easy enterprise resource planning (ERP) integration to accommodate future plans to tie production dashboards to the city’s ERP and work order system, and eventually replace manual data spreadsheets.

For long-term support, CSWS procured a Rockwell Automation service agreement that provides field service professionals to assist with scheduled maintenance and help troubleshoot the system when
issues arise.

In addition, CSWS has a TechConnect™ support agreement for its online and phone support needs.


Project start-up and commissioning began in May 2009, with the final phase of the four-phase project completed in 2013.

With the new system in place, the city has increased its average daily water flow from 8.1 million gallons to 11.8 million gallons. The newly automated plant has eased troubleshooting and maintenance.

By removing disparate systems and utilizing one standardized solution, CSWS can easily manage spare parts inventory and replace outdated equipment. And, the service agreement from Rockwell Automation provides a large annual cost savings in inventory and parts handling.

College Station’s previous control system stocked spare parts inventory of about $250,000. The city’s spare part investment is now less than $20,000 – and on-site inventory uses far less storage space.

“Customer service was an important deciding factor for the city,” said Kellogg. “We were impressed by the products, solutions, services and multilayers of support available by investing in Rockwell Automation, and knew it offered the best total cost of ownership.”

With the real-time phone support and software updates provided with TechConnect, CSWS is just one phone call away from repairs. Additionally, remote-monitoring capabilities via WIN-911, new virtualized servers, and networked communications help plant managers and operators access operations and troubleshoot from remote locations.

Before the upgrade, the plant operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Now it runs one shift, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and requires only five operators instead of 11.

As a result, CSWS can reallocate its human resources to other critical areas and provide staff with new opportunities for career growth.

Overall, CSWS has managed to save valuable time and money through the increased productivity and decreased downtime at their wastewater treatment plant.

Remote access to equipment allows operators to respond to issues before downtime occurs – the city has decreased downtime by 10 percent and increased response time by 25 percent.

And, since implementing the PlantPAx system, VFDs and motor control has helped the city record approximately $65,000 in annual energy savings.

The results mentioned above are specific to College Station Water Services’ use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

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