SCADA Update Protects Potable Production

Windsor Utilities Commission Bolsters Its Water Production System With Data Tracking-and-Tracing Capabilities and Some Wireless Controls

By Jim Montague

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Water is always on, but to keep it flowing constantly, municipal utilities must work equally constantly to maintain and upgrade the wells, pumps, treatment and distribution lines that serve their communities. This means servicing, repairing and/or replacing all the hardware and software that these systems depend on.

For example, Windsor Utilities Commission recently replaced its aging supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and built in greater redundancy. It also combined these improvements with a second project to upgrade medium- and low-voltage electric switchgear on high- and low-lift pumps at its Detroit River intakes, reservoir booster station, pumping stations and main campus. 

WUC has provided safe and reliable water since 1935, and presently serves 72,000 businesses and homes in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It also sells bulk water to the nearby towns of LaSalle and Tecumseh. Its two main plants produce a total of 349 megaliters (mls) per day, which is slightly less than 90 million U.S. gallons (Figure 1). To accomplish its primary mission of water treatment and distribution, WUC has implemented the latest treatment technologies and is recognized as an industry leader in ozonation and meeting Ontario's Drinking Water Quality Management Standards (DWQMS).

However, WUC's innovations encompass more than ozonation and quality management, and its water treatment plant is one of the most advanced in Canada, according to John Stuart, WUC's chief operating officer, his team and their partners at Rockwell Automation.

Consistent Water Needs Data

In early 2010, Stuart and his colleagues recognized that their process controls were reaching the end of their lifecycle and needed upgrading. Rather than waiting for a problem to occur, they sought a solution that would not only bolster the system's data tracking and tracing capabilities, but also reduce the risk that a single-source failure could halt their operations. This meant WUC needed a fully redundant SCADA system with intelligent motor control and networking to improve system diagnostics.

"We don't have a lot of water storage in our distribution system, so we depend on our high-lift pumps," explains Stuart. "If there's any impact on the system, we have just 10 to 15 minutes to go to backup power. So we needed to get away from that potential single point of failure by changing our system architecture, splitting our electrical feed, and adding redundant I/O cards and processors."

Presently, WUC's treatment and distribution system has 2600 discrete I/O points and 900 analog I/O points monitoring the pumps and other equipment's starts, stops, flows, voltages, currents, alarms and other data points. "If the plant had kept its original control system and lost an I/O card, such as the one running the dosing pumps, then the control system would fail to add chemicals to the water, which would have compromised the water quality," adds Stuart. "In a redundant system, two processors and associated I/O cards would have to stop working for such a failure to occur."

Besides improving its tracking, tracing and redundancy,  WUC wanted a system that could address three key areas:

  • Historical data collection. With its old SCADA system, WUC manually recorded data every hour and risked human error. The new system needed to provide on-the-spot report creation of historical production data.
  • Knowledge transfer. Many of the plant's operators were nearing retirement. WUC wanted to retain their knowledge by distilling it into an automated process.
  • Employee flexibility. Stuart's team wanted to invest in a wireless platform that would allow one operator to use a handheld, portable tablet to control the system. This would also give WUC staffing flexibility, so it could rely on one operator per shift, rather than two.

New Controls Aid Information Access

Because of their longstanding collaboration, WUC again enlisted Rockwell Automation to help keep its facility on the leading edge of the water utility sector. The supplier's Systems and Solutions Business (SSB) team provided project management services that were instrumental in ensuring the correct hardware, software and overall SCADA system suited WUC's needs.

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