Improving on a Good Idea: How Satellite-Based SCADA Enhanced In-Place Solutions

Florida— the land of surf, sand, sun, and… septic tanks? Aging septic tanks (which include over 2.6 million homes) is a growing concern for Florida residents because the outdated systems can leak nitrogen and other contaminants into the groundwater. In 2010, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring inspections for septic tanks every five years—an edict that forces smaller utility providers, like Hillsborough County in eastern Florida, to find creative ways to modernize their systems while staying on budget.

Centered on the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, Hillsborough County is the fourth most populous county in Florida, with more than 1.3 million residents calling it home. Managing their water, wastewater, and sewage system is the Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department. In 1979, the Public Utilities Department was ahead of the curve and adopted a plan to reduce potential health hazards from septic tanks in two of its residential areas: Ruskin and Wimauma. Working with USEPA grants, the Utility has been gradually replacing septic tanks with a low-pressure sewer system (LPSS). Three decades after its initial push, the utility is nearing its goal to provide a safe LPSS for residents in all neighborhoods.

While the LPSS initiative did bring needed service upgrades to the residential areas, the number of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) also increased due to heavy rains and floods. Combined with outdated or inadequate communication and data retrieval systems, the good idea was quickly getting bogged down with bigger problems.

So when the Utility needed to find a cost-effective, efficient way to gather current and historical information, as well as to note trends, they decided to go with a SCADA system. The first pilot program did not deliver as expected and the Utility had to reassess their parameters. The second attempt proved to be the winning combination because it was affordable and high quality, factored in public safety, and included features designed for specific environmental concerns, like aging septic systems.

High Tide Technologies offered Hillsborough County Utilities a satellite-based SCADA solution that provides the Utility with wireless monitoring of all assets, including remote ones, as well as desired alarm notifications. Utility workers are alerted via text, phone, or pager to any issues, and personnel has instant access to the recorded data from individual grinder pumps. The solution also provides a mapping feature that can guide utility personnel to units in stress or alarm. Satellite-based SCADA solutions are scalable and fit easily within most utility budgets while reducing man hours, modernizing older systems, protecting equipment, and managing operations.

In one fell swoop, the Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department had the right tools to continue to build on their great idea of proactively addressing aging septic tanks. By using a satellite-based SCADA, the Utility can scale as needed and always be ahead of the curve for any potentially damaging or dangerous problems. And residents of Hillsborough County can focus on the surf, sand, and sun… instead of leaking septic tanks.

 

Small Towns Solving Big Water Management Problems

Forty-five miles west of Knoxville and nestled in the Tennessee Valley is Harriman, TN, a scenic small town of 6,218 in 10.6 square miles. Because time and technology wait for no man, Harriman found itself looking for big innovations for their small town water management needs.

Providing electric, gas, water, and wastewater services to the city and the surrounding area is the Harriman Utility Board (HUB). Due to necessity, HUB has absorbed smaller water service providers throughout the years and integrated them into its system, creating a patchwork of different systems, processes, and technologies for monitoring.

 

This hodge-podge of systems led to a serviceable but clunky workflow:

  • Personnel received monitoring data via one computer in the warehouse, creating gaps in efficiency and opening the door to inaccurate readings.
  • Operators in the field didn’t have direct access to the data and had to rely on relayed information or, more commonly, the past experiences of engineers and operators. More time was spent trying to pinpoint what or where the problem could be instead of actually addressing the issue.
  • Many of the remote locations lacked telemetry—the wired or wireless transmission and reception of data to monitor equipment or conditions—and required onsite visits, which varied in frequency and consistency.

 

Add to it aging and outdated monitoring equipment and limited availability for replacement parts, and the case was clear: The time had come to upgrade the HUB water and utility management system.

Rural municipalities typically have small budgets that must be stretched to cover large geographic areas, limiting rural areas to low-cost and low-tech options, such as line-of-sight radio networks or phone lines. Because of the growing cost of leased lines, and costly repeaters for hilly areas, soon enough, low-tech options no longer mean low cost. The HUB board had the same concerns when it set out to find a better, more efficient, more affordable solution.

Luckily, the right solution exists. The HUB board decided to install a small cloud-based SCADA system through us, allowing utility operators to access and control the systems from any Internet-connected device. The changes put an end to spotty landline connections, costly equipment, and distance issues. Additionally, the cloud-based SCADA provider carries the burden of licensing and maintaining SCADA software and hardware, which reduces the cost and development needs—and worries—for utility departments.

In the two years since its implementation of a cloud-based SCADA, the Harriman Utility Board has seen water loss reduced by 10 percent and a more accurate understanding of the way the system works. By having precise and timely data at their fingertips, operators and engineers can better predict and calibrate future issues.

Though rural municipalities like Harriman may be small, they still think big when it comes to effective water management. Finding the latest monitoring technology to meet their needs and their budget proved that a cloud-based SCADA system is the best fit for utilities of any size.

You can learn more about the Harriman solution by downloading the case study here.