I was reading a great article on page 14 in World Water magazine, November/December 2018 entitled “Automated plant delivers pristine water, saves millions in costs”. Why is this a really good read? Primarily because it speaks the exact issues that many medium and smaller communities are facing around their water and waste water infrastructure.
I won’t re-hash the details of the article, but here are the key challenges that were faced by the Town of Falmouth on Cape Cod, Massachusetts;
- A population that surges from 25,000 to 120,000 in the summer months. This perhaps somewhat unique to vacation communities, but many towns and cities we support are challenged by population growth and dealing with the resulting water/waste water burden
- A pumping station dating from the late 19th century as the main water source, delivering clean, but unfiltered water
- Increased regulations mandating tight water and waste water quality levels
- Constrained budgets requiring a re-think of traditional 24×7 staffing levels that would be necessary in the summer months when demand is high
The solution was to create a reliable, modern, control and information architecture. While Falmouth was comfortable with controls aspect, PLC’s, actuators etc., they realized that running the SCADA and related control/information software on a standard server would only give them 99% reliability. The result would be significant unplanned downtime events approximately three times per year (actually over 3 ½ days of unplanned downtime a year). This was unacceptable. Further, the water department acknowledged that their expertise is not in maintaining computer systems, but in running water & waste water operations. This is really a classic example of Edge computing – applications running critical tasks and functions and remote locations where there is little or no IT expertise.
To address this critical piece of the puzzle, Falmouth and their engineering and system integrators turned to our team to complement the overall solution from Rockwell Automation and other Rockwell Encompass partners. We were able to implement a continuous availability solution on our ftServer platform, which supported virtualization, enabling all Falmouth’s applications to run on a single server. With ftServer’s integrated redundancy, self-monitoring, automatic alerting back to Stratus, and hot swap replacement capability, Falmouth no longer had to worry if a component failed – everything would keep running and would automatically re-synchronize when the failed component was replaced. The result was an overall solution with 99.99% uptime – or less than 1 hour of unplanned downtime per year.
The system also delivered additional benefits, virtually eliminating the need for on-call operators to have to run out to the plant. Now virtually all operational issues can be diagnosed and addressed remotely using new applications, and staffing levels can be maintained at a year-round single shift, with on call support during off hours. With the Stratus server that does not lose data, this new system is able to streamline and largely automate the state reporting requirements, freeing up personnel to address system issues and work on new projects. Falmouth can now get to the backlog of projects that have been almost permanently on hold due to the old archaic systems that were previously in place.
This is not a unique story, but one that is well documented. Stratus has been involved with many water/waste water projects over the years.