With all of the work that goes into properly treating and providing safe drinking water and ensuring your wastewater is disposed, gone are the days of traditional Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.
SCADA systems are a combination of hardware and software that carry out a wide range of day-to-day functions; from controlling and monitoring industrial equipment to collecting and processing data. The problem? Not every system has all of these capabilities on one platform.
In order to properly maintain the many tanks, pumps, and pipes that make up water and wastewater systems, operators and engineers need a simple, all-in-one platform that allows them to quickly make decisions and meet demands. Inflexible and limited SCADA systems of the past cause a number of issues for users:
- Increased downtime due to the time and cost it takes to make changes to an existing system
- Lack of visibility into equipment damage and malfunction
- Loss of data and lack of transparency
- Lack of customer support
- Difficulties in using complex systems and scaling operations
- Cybersecurity threats due to outdated hardware and software
The number of SCADA systems out there for water utilities can be overwhelming. So how do you know what to look for in a system? Here are a few things to consider when choosing a SCADA solution to help you save time and money running your water systems:
Today's automation systems should have the same capabilities from across the country as they do at the on-site panel. This includes real-time remote monitoring, control, and the ability to remotely receive alarms and data.
While public water systems will always need experienced field and plant operators, incorporating a SCADA system with remote capabilities can help alleviate some of the monotonous day-to-day responsibilities. Rather than constantly physically checking meters and tank levels, users are freed up to focus on more productive tasks.
Automated water systems are also more energy efficient than manual systems. With the visibility modern SCADA systems provide, users are able to determine where optimization is needed to lower operational costs.
The water we drink, the food we eat, and the energy that powers our lives all depend on a secure supply of clean water. Public water systems play a critical role in American society and thus are no exception to the growing concern in cybersecurity.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation now ranks cybercrime as one of its most important law enforcement activities. In a statement from the United States Department of Energy, "In addition to the general problems associated with cybercrime, critical infrastructure related to energy production, manufacturing, water supply and other systems have come under attack."
In Oct. 2021, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and FBI issued a joint warning that revealed several industrial control systems at water facilities had been impacted by ransomware attacks in the last two years. Many of the wastewater facilities were targeted because of their outdated software and attacked via phishing campaigns. Because public water systems are considered U.S. critical infrastructure, cybercrime attacks can cause economic repercussions and can jeopardize public health and safety.
Many of the compromised systems had to be run manually until the SCADA systems and computers were restored.
As a matter of fact, the City of Huntsville, TX just reported a cybersecurity breach that impacted multiple systems just last month.
In Feb. 2021, cyber criminals gained access to a SCADA system at a United States water treatment facility. The bad actors used the software to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in the treatment process. Luckily, personnel noticed the dosage change before there were any serious consequences. The water treatment process was unaffected and continued to operate as normal.
According to the CISA, "the cyber actors likely accessed the system by exploiting cybersecurity weaknesses, including poor password security, and an outdated operating system." (sources in Water Security blog post)
Obvious consequences include increased downtime, monetary loss, data breaches, safety hazards, and damage to equipment. Most modern SCADA systems offer alarm systems that alert operations staff of security breaches. Furthermore, many programs have alarm management systems integrated, allowing for automatic responses and emergency shutdowns if a bad actor is detected.
Nearly 70 percent of customers said security was the most important decision-making aspect when choosing a SaaS solution. It is crucial that SCADA systems put security at the forefront.
Managing a community water system is no easy task, by any means. And along with the responsibility of ensuring there is plenty of safe drinking water for your community and that wastewater is properly dispersed and treated, is the responsibility that you’re doing so on a budget.
As mentioned earlier, SCADA frees up operators to focus on more productive tasks. The system’s remote monitoring capabilities can save users on several different fronts: operators can save time and money simply by making changes and checking in on their infrastructure from a mobile device.
The system also prevents and alerts personnel to activities that result in costly leaks, breaks, overflows, chemical imbalances and more.
Data And Analytics
Many platforms may provide users with remote monitoring and control capabilities, but have to outsource data and analytics through a different platform. Or their SCADA is confined to on-site PC or HMI terminals. Modern SCADA systems should have data and analytics streamlined right into the automation all on one platform. Additionally, for increased efficiency, a facility's real-time and historical data should be available to authorized users remotely, so they're able to make data-driven decisions from anywhere.
Instant access to data retrieved from flow meters and sensors gives operators the opportunity to see problems like leaks, overflows, and chemical imbalances. This results in quicker, more accurate responses, reducing downtime.
Modern SCADA That Checks All of the Boxes
SitePro's unique software system has one goal in mind: to make our customers' lives a little easier by revolutionizing the way they see, control, and analyze their water and wastewater systems. View your operations and make changes to it from anywhere, at any time. Our product is not only easy-to-use from on-site or a desktop, but is also just as functional from a mobile device. (We even have an app!)
In addition to remote control and monitoring, SitePro's data and analytics feature gives an inside look at what's happening within your operations. Make quicker, more accurate responses. See how your site is operating over time, investigate incidents, or view regulatory reporting data.
And if you need to make changes to your infrastructure such as adding a pump or adjusting tank levels, we've got that covered too. Or technically, you do. Our no-code platform tears down the wall of traditional SCADA and puts the power back in your hands, allowing you to easily make changes to your site.
As you begin to expand and optimize your city’s water operations, we'll expand with you. SitePro's "organic" software is able to keep your current assets up and running as you update or add to your existing infrastructure. Just like your operations will evolve over time, SitePro's software will change too.
Your city deserves the best. To learn more about how SitePro’s all-in-one platform can help your community conserve, treat, and dispense its water, schedule a personalized meeting with us.