Addressing Challenges in the Water Distribution and Treatment Supply Chain

Supply chain issues are an unwelcome side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost everyone has experienced product shortages and increased costs as a result. The water treatment supply chain is also caught up in these events. Water utilities must develop an intentional strategy to prevent service disruptions.

Current Supply Chain Issues

The global supply chain is a complicated network of raw material suppliers, manufacturing plants, and transportation and logistics companies. A delay or break in any part of the chain will affect operations further down the line. The pandemic has impacted every step in this process.

Employee shortages have made it difficult for raw materials to make it to factories and for plants to keep a reliable manufacturing schedule. Reduced staffing has also challenged shipping companies trying to maintain on-time deliveries.

These delays lead to product shortages and increased retail costs. Higher prices are part of the equation when the items you need are challenging to obtain.

How the Supply Chain Affects Water Utilities

Shortages are frustrating when you have trouble finding your favorite products, but they can be dangerous when affecting critical infrastructure. When there are breaks in the water treatment supply chain, it can lead to service disruptions and boil-water advisories.

Water systems must also deal with the consequences of aging facilities. The EPA estimates that there are around 240,000 water main breaks annually. Without the equipment to make prompt repairs, such events will cause interruptions in regular service and the waste of millions of gallons of treated water.

Supply Chain Risk Mitigation

The supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are happening on a large scale that makes headlines. However, even after the current crisis, supply chain issues are something that water utilities must anticipate. There will always be a possibility that a critical chemical will be in short supply or the water main will break without the necessary repair supplies in place.

Utilities must look for strategies that help them stay ahead of supply issues. Keeping an accurate inventory of day-to-day materials is a critical treatment plant asset management practice. Anticipating problems in the supply chain will mean having enough materials on hand to deal with projected needs for a few months ahead. Those responsible for ordering supplies should think about what’s happening in the next quarter rather than the next month.

If a water system has aging equipment, the utility should adopt a preventative maintenance schedule. Instead of dealing with breakdowns as they happen, they should be looking to upgrade aging infrastructure before there’s a problem. When ordering repair materials, they will need to purchase enough for upcoming projects and extra supplies for emergencies.

SCADA Technology and Treatment Plant Asset Management

A supervisory control and data acquisition system is a tool that can help water treatment plants and distribution systems assess the current health of infrastructure and predict future needs. With SCADA, sensors throughout the system report real-time performance information. Once managers have a baseline, they can see which parts of the system are not performing as they should. For example, changes in water pressure in a pipe may indicate a leak, giving it higher priority in repair plans.

SCADA software will also assist with accurate distribution system and treatment plant monitoring. Historical sensor data can demonstrate daily and seasonal fluctuations in water volume. The utility will have a better sense of the supplies necessary to maintain operations. Deviations from the norm will also help point out issues within the system.

An Experienced Partner for Water Treatment Plant Monitoring

High Tide Technologies designs SCADA for municipal water collection, distribution, and treatment systems. Our cloud-based technology provides real-time sensor data and remote access to support advanced risk mitigation. Contact us today to learn how SCADA can prevent supply chain-related issues in water system operations.