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Add to it aging and outdated monitoring equipment and limited availability for replacement parts, and the case was clear: The time had come to upgrade the HUB water and utility management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

SCADA for Utilities – Water System SCADA

Today, the majority of Americans turn on their faucets, take showers or clean their dishes, without giving their water bill much thought.

Pretty soon, however, that might not be the case.

According to researchers at Michigan State University, water prices nationwide will need to increase by 41 percent over the next five years, to account for the increasing pressure of climate change and the costs of aging infrastructure. And that increase could leave up to a third of all US households unable to cover their water bills.

A historical perspective: After WWII, the US government spent a lot of money on building water distribution and collection infrastructure. In the 1970s, federal funding for water infrastructure was at 60 percent. Now? Just 9 percent. It’s no surprise that after 60 years, a lot of water pipes across America desperately need to be repaired or replaced.

Tracy Mehan, executive director of government affairs at American Water Works Association, has been advocating for more federal funding, but said in a recent Vox article that Americans can’t avoid higher water rates.

“We’ve coasted for decades in most places around the country,” Mehan says. “Our rates are half that of northern European cities. Rates are going up and need to go up.”

The team behind the Michigan State study says that annual water bills will increase by nearly $600 over the next five years. Currently, an average annual bill is $120 per month, but in the future that average could be as high as $169 per month.

What can be done to ease this impending burden?

Researchers say restructuring water rates is one possible solution. According to the Vox article, “restructuring water rates involves determining the number of gallons a customer can use each month for a pre-negotiated fee. If a customer uses more than the set amount, they pay a penalty or overage fee. Recent research shows that when utilities restructure rates, it can help offset the rising costs of water service.”

Improving infrastructure, restructuring water rates and increasing public awareness about the issue are just a few ways we can start dealing with the issue.

And although we don’t have all the answers, our 500+ clients have found that cloud-based SCADA is one option to help their water utilities be more efficient and cut down on cost. Ultimately, this technology will translate to direct cost savings for people in your community.

A path to savings:

  • The initial set-up fee for a cloud-based SCADA system is a fraction of the cost of a traditional SCADA system.
  • With cloud-based SCADA, the costs that come with replacing outdated hardware go away. With cloud-based SCADA, it’s easy to make changes and upgrades to the web-based software.
  • With alert systems built-in, High Tide Technologies’ cloud-based SCADA notifies your team of any problems, such as power/equipment failures, overflows or leaks.

To learn more about the impact of cloud-based SCADA, see what we’ve done for rural municipalities.

What’s Going on in California? – State Enacts First Ever Statewide Water Conservation Mandates

On the heels of a record-low snowpack and a seemingly endless drought in California, Governor Brown announced new statewide water conservation mandates that aim to reduce water usage by 25 percent. The overall savings will amount to nearly 1.5 million acre-feet of water through the remainder of 2015. The state has lost approximately 11 trillion gallons of water during this historic drought, and the governor’s mandates will bring California to unprecedented action.

What Does this Mean for You?

California isn’t the only state suffering through an unprecedented drought. If you are in a state that is experiencing a drought, you might need to help your municipalities prepare for similar statewide mandates to spur on broad water conservation. Even if your state or town isn’t experiencing these types of conditions, there are steps you can take to guard against water loss in your system.

The HUB

The Harriman Utility Board (HUB) provides electric, gas, water and sewer services for the city of Harriman, Tennessee and the surrounding area. Over the years, HUB also has absorbed smaller water service providers and integrated them into its system. This created a patchwork of technologies for monitoring its water system. Their new integrated system was riddled with leaks that were difficult to identify, and HUB was left with a significant water loss, which was increasing annually for a number of years.

In order to identify their problem areas and spend less time “chasing leaks,” HUB implemented a cloud SCADA system. Since the system was put in, the water loss has been reduced by 10%. HUB frequently would get calls from customers about low water pressure and overflowing tanks. With the new system, those calls have been dramatically reduced along with overtime costs.

Read an entire case study about the Harriman Utility Board and how their cloud SCADA solved big problems for their small utility.