SCADA Systems: Best Defense Against Sewage Leaks

Recently in Milwaukee, there was an overnight sewage leak at Wisconsin’s largest water treatment plant. According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District workers spotted a pool of untreated sewage on the surface at the Jones Island treatment plant, and an undetermined amount of sewage ended up flowing to the Kinnickinnic River, a small but densely populated tributary that feeds into Milwaukee’s lakefront.

There are few things more unappealing and off-putting than the thought of a sewage water in the water supply. Even the best filtration system can’t clean up the mental block of using soiled water. So the best defense is an even better offense: eliminate sewage leaks in the first place. How? Telemetry.

Telemetry is wired or wireless transmission and reception of measured data, and it’s a vital component to monitoring and equipment control for several industries—including oil and gas companies, agriculture, utility services like wastewater and sewage, and municipalities. Telemetry is the 24/7 eyes and ears of equipment, providing accurate data in real-time, alerts to malfunctions and leaks, and for workers, peace of mind. When a utility operation has potential to spoil the local environment or basic needs, like clean water, telemetry is the multi-level fail-safe to make sure the worst-case scenarios don’t happen (or are at least manageable).

High Tide founder and President David Mundie agrees. “Most states require that someone drive by and look at the unit once a day. When you have telemetry, you don’t have to physically visit, you can have information before you get there, which cuts down on overtime and makes the system run more smoothly.”

Outfitted with alerts and alarms, a telemetry system like a cloud-based SCADA serves as the first indication of any problem or issue. In the case of Milwaukee’s sewage leak, a SCADA system would have noted the pressure change that might mean a breach in the pipeline, or it could have detected outside contaminates in the water. This first alert would prompt a visual check earlier than 10 hours.

Fortunately, the Milwaukee Water Works does employ a SCADA system for the drinking water, and none of the overflow or leakage affected the tap water. But Kinnickinnic River is not only a picturesque waterway through Wisconsin, it’s also a main tributary to a densely populated urban area. Spillage of hazardous or contaminate materials could damage the ecosystem and become a breeding ground for a myriad of diseases. A cloud- or Internet-based SCADA system, which can monitor more remote areas and alert to overflow or equipment failure, is a wastewater department’s first and best line of defense against leakage.

Talking Telemetry for Utilities with Dr. David Mundie

The field of telemetry has skyrocketed in growth via digital and cellular-based technology, but where do smaller, more budget-conscious providers fit in? We talked with Dr. David Mundie, Founder and President of High Tide Technologies, about some of the issues facing utility providers, and how telemetry fits into the modern landscape.  You can read the entire interview here.

High Tide: Thanks for chatting with us. Before we dive in, can you give readers some background on High Tide Technologies?

David Mundie: Thanks for having me. Back in 2002, I was working with a civil engineer at a dot-com company that went under. He knew the wastewater market really well and I, as an electrical engineer, knew telemetry really well. So we took what we both did best, knew there was a need, and decided to start High Tide Technologies.

HT: What problem did you see and set out to fix with High Tide?

DM: We specifically started the company to focus on rural, small- to medium-sized utility systems, those who could not afford the more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment, which led to basically doing a lot of things manually. What we’re able to provide is a solution that’s simple to install, no software or hardware to maintain in the collections, doesn’t involve a big server (because it’s all Internet-based), and has full 24/7 support. Smaller utilities are on-call 24/7 but can’t necessarily be at the plant to look at a screen. Instead they can check their levels from anywhere and feel good that things are still working. We’re right there with them, any time. It’s peace of mind.

HT: What kinds of problems are utilities and municipalities coming to High Tide to solve?

DM: In the wastewater world, there are all sorts of environmental regulations to stop overflow and spoil the environment. Most states require that someone drives by and looks at the unit once a day. When you have telemetry, you don’t have to physically visit; you can access the information before you get there, which cuts down on overtime and makes the system run more smoothly.

On the water side, we’ve been in stations that had no telemetry, and to monitor everything, they drive down the road and see that the target on the tank is low, flip the switch, and hope to remember later to switch it off. They have water loss from leaving it on too long and overflowing the tank. The state [government] does a lot of regulation on water loss, but also has the problem with tanks that are too low, and not having enough in the hydrants to fight a fire. But having a system that is automatically controlled can eliminate all those problems.

HT: So telemetry helps keep levels accurate, and helps the whole operation run more efficiently. Can you give an example?

DM: Sure. We had one customer who had 40% of the water produced lost somehow. They measured this by adding up water billed from meters at customer sites compared to what meters at the plant say and the numbers didn’t match at all. After installing one of our monitoring and control products, they got it down to 30% within a couple of months and it keeps improving the more time goes on, refining their system. Loss numbers like that affect funding for plant expansions, budgets, etc. Telemetry helps solve those mysteries.

HT: Why would a municipality or utility board choose High Tide? What’s the benefit?

DM: The thing about our stuff is that there is no custom programming and we can get a system up and running within a week or two. A typical SCADA system is customer-specific. The way we do it, everybody is sharing the resources. We make the same box for everybody, in different sizes. And we can ship it the next day after the order is placed so the customer can be up and running fairly quickly, probably within a week or so. It’s less expensive because there is no central server they have to maintain and staff. Our solutions are about one-third to one-fourth the cost of traditional radio systems or phone dialers, which is helpful for stricter budgets or smaller municipalities.

We do have subscription service that’s like a rental service fee for the system and even if we take 10 years of fees, our systems are still less expensive than traditional because traditional systems need maintenance, and that gets costly. Customers benefit from getting accurate data in real-time, which allows them to provide their service efficiently and effectively.

To read the entire interview with David Mundie and learn more about the future developments for telemetry and SCADA systems for utility service providers, click here.

How Eco-Conscious Are Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials?

Lately it feels like each generation has a bone to pick with its predecessors or successors. But when it comes to the most environmentally friendly behavior, is it the Boomers, Gen X, or the Millennials that are the “greenest generation”? We surveyed 2,000 Americans from all three generations to find out just how eco-conscious their habits are and scored the groups based on their earth-friendly behaviors. Check out who ranked highest in the graph below.

When it comes to our most precious resource, Boomers are leading the most conservative path by showering and running the dishwasher the least-Gen-Xers are most likely to shower more than 7 times in a week. Millennials are keeping their jeans as fresh as possible by never or rarely washing them, which helps cut down on water waste.

According to the survey, more than 90% of all three generations agree that recycling makes a difference. However, Gen-Xers are coming up short with a zero score, whereas Boomers and Millennials tie for first with two points apiece. Millennials are most likely to use paper billing and reusable bags, cutting down on excess paper products, and Boomers are more likely to recycle electronics like cell phones, according to survey results.

One of the biggest categories for eco-consciousness is energy and again, Gen-Xers are in last place with one point for their use of energy-efficient appliances-a good habit they share with Boomers. Boomers also have the least amount of TV watching or streaming usage and cut back their electricity usage the most. Millennials, however, tend to suck up electricity even when not awake by choosing to charge their phone at night. Boomers and Gen-Xers are also more likely to use Energy Star appliances, however, Gen-Xers tend to have the highest electric bills. Millennials also embrace the green commute, choosing public transportation or cycling over driving. Once again, Gen-Xers are the most likely to drive to work.

However, when it comes to food, one good habit cancels out the other for Boomers and Millennials. While Boomers are most likely to eat meat more than five times a week-a disastrous strain on the environment-Millennials are the most vegetarian-conscious generation. Conversely, Millennials are more likely to waste more than 10 pounds of food a week whereas Boomers are the most careful about food waste, choosing to compost instead. Gen-Xers also opt for composting, proving that younger generations could stand to learn something from their elders.

At a paltry two points, Gen-Xers lose at the Generational Eco-conscious Olympics. Millennials put up a solid score of six but get dinged on things like food and energy waste. According to the survey, with a score of nine out of 17, Boomers are considered the most eco-conscious of the current generations-though all three groups have areas for improvement. By doing things like cutting back on electricity, being food conscious and using composts, and recycling, Boomers demonstrate that real care for the environment begins with developing daily good, Earth-friendly habits.

Methodology

After surveying 2,000 people across the country, we broke down the responses based on age in order to compare eco-conscious habits across three generations: Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. We asked respondents about their daily habits when it comes to their water, food and energy usage as well as their recycling habits.

Full Interview with David Mundie, President of High Tide Technologies

The field of telemetry for utilities has skyrocketed with the growth and usage of digital and cellular-based technology. But where do the smaller or budget-conscious providers fit in? We talked with Dr. David Mundie, Founder and President of High Tide Technologies, about some of the issues facing utility providers and mid-size municipalities, how telemetry fits into the modern landscape, and some of the latest ideas in development for the future.

High Tide: Thanks for chatting with us. Before we dive, can you give readers some background on High Tide Technologies?

David Mundie: Thanks for having me. Back in 2002, I was working with a civil engineer at a dot.com company that went under. He knew the wastewater market really well and I, as an electrical engineer, knew telemetry really well. So we took what we both did best, knew there was a need, and decided to start High Tide Technologies.

HT: What problem did you see and set out to fix with High Tide?

DM: We specifically started the company to focus on rural, small- to medium-sized utility systems, those who could not afford the more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment, which led to basically doing a lot of things manually. What we’re able to provide is a solution that’s simple to install, no software or hardware to maintain in the collections, and doesn’t involve a big server (because it’s all Internet based), and has full 24/7 support. Smaller utilities are on-call 24/7 but can’t necessarily be at the plant to look at a screen. Instead they can check their levels from anywhere and feel good that things are still working. We’re right there with them, any time. It’s peace of mind.

HT: What kinds of problems are utilities and municipalities coming to High Tide to solve?

DM: In the wastewater world, there are all sorts of environmental regulations [to stop] overflow and spoil the environment. Most states require that someone drives by and looks at the unit once a day. When you have telemetry, you don’t have to physically visit; you can access the information before you get there, which cuts down on overtime and makes the system run more smoothly.

On the water side, we’ve been in stations that had no telemetry and to monitor everything, they drive down the road and see that the target on the tank is low, flip the switch, and hope to remember later to switch it off. They have water loss from leaving it on too long and overflowing the tank. The state [government] do a lot of regulation on water loss, but also have the problem with tanks too low and not enough to fight a fire in the hydrants. But having a system that is automatically controlled can eliminate all those problems.

HT: So telemetry helps keep levels accurate, and helps the whole operation run more efficiently. Can you give an example?

DM: Sure. We had one customer who had 40% of the water produced lost somehow. They measured this by adding up water billed from meters at customer sites compared to what meters at the plant says and the numbers didn’t match at all. And after installing one of our monitoring and control products, they got it down to 30% within a couple of months and it keeps improving the more time goes on, refining their system. Loss numbers like that affects funding for plant expansions, budgets, etc. Telemetry helps solve those mysteries.

HT: Why would a municipality or utility board choose High Tide? What’s the benefit?

DM: The thing about our stuff is that there is no custom programming and we can get a system up and running within a week or two. A typical SCADA system is customer-specific. The way we do it, everybody is sharing the resources. We make the same box for everybody, in different sizes. And we can ship it the next day after the order is placed so [the customer] can be up and running fairly quickly, probably within a week or so. It’s less expensive because there is no central server they have to maintain and staff. Our solutions are about one-third to one-fourth of the cost of traditional (typically radio systems or phone dialers), which is helpful for stricter budgets or smaller municipalities.

We do have subscription service that’s like a rental service fee for the system and even if we take 10 years of fees, our systems are still less expensive than traditional because traditional systems need maintenance, and that gets costly.

HT: And High Tide systems don’t need maintenance?

DM: We think that the easier you can make it, the users can do their own maintenance instead of calling a technician for $1000 to fix it. We ship a lot of spare parts and people can service it themselves, even if they’re not technical. We provide 24/7 support. Big municipalizes have that but small municipalities need that kind of help. Their radio supplier won’t do that.

Sometimes municipalities have different systems in place or more piecemeal set-up. We can do a mix and match of products and parts—whatever the municipality needs. It all reports back to the server and the server doesn’t care what the data comes from. Customers benefit from getting accurate data in real-time, which allows them to provide their service efficiently and effectively.

HT: The Internet of Things is a fast-evolving idea that is quickly coming to fruition in products like smart homes, self-driving cars, and cloud-based SCADA. What do you see for the future of the IoT technology, both positive notes and negative ones?  

DM: The positive side is it drives down the cost of doing more sophisticated monitoring and control the hardware is going down, the cost of communications is going down, which makes it more cost-effective.

On the negative side, computers crash and you’re depending on the company to turn on and off the tank. All these stations have manual overrides so people have to revert to what they did before equipment.

The nice thing about our systems, there’s not a single point of failure. You might lose one tank one pipe, but not the whole system. We try to retain redundancies on our server farm. We have customers have lighting hit and we can do tweaks to their controls until that unit is repaired.

If the tank is fried by lighting, we put timers on the pump station—which is based on history since we have that data—and we can go days and keep things maintained and if usage changes, it might be a little off, but not completely dead.

HT: What trends do you see unfolding that make you excited for the future of your business/industry?

DM: Utilities are getting more sophisticated in the preventative maintenance areas. Equipment used to run until the pump died then they’d replace the pump but it’s cheaper to repair than replace. We’re getting more sophisticated with the data we collect so [utilities] can start doing predictive analysis and see the performance over time and know when to service it before it fails completely. One of the big things that telemetry lets you do is collect, monitor, and control in real time. In the past, someone had to do the analysis by hand (via graphs) but software on the servers’ analyzes the data and can alert to an upcoming repair before it fails, which saves time, money, and energy, and manpower.

Some of our utilities really think about the cost and budgeting, and want to know and utilize all their options. I mean, there are $30,000 pumps that cost only $5000 to repair it, as opposed to replacing completely.

HT: Anything else you can say about the state of telemetry in municipality infrastructures and utility service providers?

DM: There are a lot of changes happening right now in the Internet of Things market because the cellular companies are adding stuff to go after this new market, looking for ways to adapt and changing the way the markets work. It’s a lot of small connections using just a little bit of data as opposed to a few connections that use a lot of data and It really affects cellular companies; they can’t make money if they don’t make X amount per modem but they’re not going to sell the millions of them at the price they need. For example, we want 2GB for our movies on our phones, but the sensor in the pump only needs a few bytes every 5-10 minutes. This new market is disrupting their pricing strategies. And affects how we design the future equipment.

Utility Telemetry Systems Keep Coastal Town Drinking Water Safe

Solid ground could be a misnomer when it comes to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The popular vacation spot and idyllic island is effectively a sandbar, with towns, roads, and businesses built on the porous ground that washed up several centuries ago. Except for a single pond in Falmouth, the drinking water on Cape Cod is produced from a single underground aquifer, which by definition is porous rock, so anything that spills—gasoline, waste discharge, insect repellent, paint, etc.—eventually seeps into the ground water. According to a 2016 article in the Boston Globe, “In some parts of Cape Cod, ground water travels a foot a day, and in many places the water table sits less than 10 feet below the surface. Whatever gets dumped on the ground could contaminate water within a couple of weeks.”

What makes Cape Cod both rustically beautiful and a day-tripper’s dream is the geology, which has been shifting into uneasy territory for decades. For example, water in the town of Barnstable is no longer assumed to be drinkable and safe. New regulations from the EPA rolled out in 2016 forced the closing of two of the town’s three wells. Industry, as well as a nearby military base camp, and weather-related forces, like storm run-off and tide swells, means that the municipal water system is fighting several factors on several fronts. That’s where telemetry comes into play.

 

Telemetry is the wired or wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions or equipment parameters, and in utility services has many long-range benefits.

  • A cloud-based SCADA system physically monitors the levels and quality of the water, so Cape Cod municipality workers can check the viability of the drinking water supply at a click of a mouse.
  • Remote access units means that data can be collected from areas not easily accessed, such as marshy outposts or run-off areas near industry hubs, like Barnstable or the military base. Personnel simply logs in to see, catalogue, and transmit the pertinent data.
  • Outfitted with alarms, a telemetry system like a cloud-based SCADA often serves as the first indication of any problem or issue. Any dip or rise in proper levels, or introduction of contaminates, or equipment and power failures is immediately sent to personnel, thereby allowing for quicker response and mitigating additional damage. In Cape Cod, where a hurricane can redraw the coastline in minutes and overwhelm the water system, immediate knowledge of any problem can save precious dollars, minutes, and livelihoods.

For small municipalities like Barnstable, in areas that are unique in geological structure and environmental needs, the best defense is a solid infrastructural offense. Telemetry systems are instrumental in places like Cape Cod because the constantly changing data needs to be monitored, tracked, and analyzed to be able to find long-term solutions.

Untracked Wastewater Spills No Longer an Issue with Telemetry Solutions

Oil spills are big news because they pose such large-scale environmental damage and clean-up cost. In 2105, energy and environment organization E&E news reported that only about half of the 2700 spills at Texas oil and gas sites were tracked, which had environmentalists wondering why, and more importantly, how it can be fixed.

According to the article, Texas, unlike other states, does not track spills of wastewater, but instead only tracks spills of petroleum products, primarily crude oil. However, many critics insist that wastewater spills are more damaging. When spills are left unchecked and untracked, a disaster is waiting to happen.

Wastewater, sometimes called brine or produced water, contains crude oil fluids. Because it’s not being tracked, there’s no way to assess damage, seepage rates, or effects of a spill and clean-up. When there is a wastewater spill, unchecked amounts of crude oil remnants and other chemical run-off are seeping into the ground, affecting the health of people, livestock, and the land.

So, what can the government and oil companies do to protect the people and the land? Luckily, this is the age of modern technology and the solution already exists. Telemetry—the wired or wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions—monitors, tracks, records, and transmits any and all data relating to oil production. What used to be a daunting exercise requiring loads of manpower and organized information sharing can now be done with the simple click of a mouse, from anywhere by anyone with access.

One aspect of telemetry that would be especially useful for oil companies dealing with wastewater spills is to implement a cloud-based SCADA system. SCADA, which stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, is the digital recording and monitoring of devices and equipment. Once installed, a manager at an oil production plant could track and measure the levels of chemicals in by-products, like wastewater. If there was a spill or equipment failure, the SCADA unit would electronically alert personnel and trigger an immediate response, thus mitigating damage. Furthermore, management would have all the information at their fingertips for how to best handle the situation because they would know all the chemical data and levels at breach source; that knowledge would mean environmentally-safe clean-up decisions can be made quickly and effectively.

Under the current and inconsistent spill tracking process, if the spill is crude or condensate, and it is five barrels or more, the oil company must follow up with a specific form. This form (H-8) is often on spreadsheets, which need maintenance by personnel and is not a reliable source for data keeping. A cloud-based SCADA solution works by keeping all pertinent information in a digital cloud, thereby accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection. Engineers and plant managers can share accurate data instantaneously, in real time.

Protection of the public and the land must be the top priority for oil companies. Not only do current and future lives depend on the safe production and distribution of oil, but any reckless activity or neglectful behavior in the process can—and does—have dire consequences for the land. With telemetry systems in place, gone are the days of manual data transmission and inaccurate information. Telemetry allows companies to work smarter and safer.

Municipalities Can Lessen Hurricane Damage with Real-time Access to Data

With 13 named tropical storms and hurricanes since April, this year is shaping up to be one of the most damaging hurricane seasons on record. One of the biggest hurdles after such major weather events is making sure the affected areas are habitable and safe for people to return. More specifically, local authorities need to make drinkable water available to all citizens, and they need to eliminate or contain toxic wastewater.
In times of crises, the best thing municipalities can do to effectively manage their water supply and mitigate damage is have real-time data reporting and open communication. But how?
A silver lining to hurricane season is that each weather event presents an opportunity to learn and prepare for the next one. The Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network, or WARN, is a program to help utilities share resources with each other in emergency situations. Municipalities or city water management departments who subscribe to their state’s WARN program abide by an agreement that clarifies liability, reimbursement, response procedures, and joint planning efforts. Having a set plan in place before disaster strikes allows municipalities to prepare accordingly, so that precious time, energy, money, and resources can be more effectively deployed rather than get lost in uncertainty and bureaucracy.
In a modern town or city infrastructure, it’s absolutely necessary to communicate system data, repair plans, and monitor water levels, system breaches, and other potential and dangerous issues.
That’s where a SCADA system for all utilities is imperative to cities and municipalities. SCADA, which stands for “supervisory control and data acquisition,” is a category of software application program or process control that gathers data in real time from remote locations in order to control equipment and conditions. SCADA solutions allow workers to manage, monitor, and assess the levels and output of the utility systems in real time, thus enabling them to make decisions immediately when something happens.
Furthermore, a cloud-based SCADA solution is even more integral to quick response and mitigating damage. If a storm knocks out the central pumping station, access to the data would be lost if it wasn’t securely housed in a cloud-system, allowing digital access from anywhere in the world. Instead of relying on physical units located in the areas affected, the water management department still has access to the information and can implement repairs immediately.
This year’s gauntlet of storms will bring years of damage and devastation. With a WARN system and a reliable way to access data—like cloud-based SCADA—municipalities, cities, responders, and plants can prepare accordingly and act efficiently and quickly. When the unknown strikes, the best defense is a good offense.

Must-See Destinations of Natural Beauty Around the World

With a flick of the faucet, we can easily harness one of nature’s most powerful and sustaining forces: water. Whether rock was sculpted, land washed away, or sources joined, water has crafted some of the world’s most striking landscapes and spaces. Check out the list below to learn how Earth’s diverse surface has been shaped by water.

The creation of some of Earth’s most striking formations born out of a simple formula: water plus time. A lot of time. The most obvious evidence of water’s power can be seen by what’s left behind. The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the Twelve Apostles in Australia are a few examples of what’s left lingering after water works on rocks over time. Other natural creations, such as the karst formations in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, Wave Rock in Australia, or the Stone Forest in China perfectly showcase the beauty and mystery of eons of water erosion.
Aside from carving the land as we know it today, water was—and continues to be—integral to the development of civilizations and trade. The Yangtze River, the longest river in China and third longest in the world, is home to many of China’s biggest cities. It is the busiest inland waterway in the world, warranting the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project. Similarly, the Rhine River spans six countries in Europe, and for centuries, provided clean water for cooking, washing, and farming, which helped stave off disease and aided the development of trade and agriculture.
It is easy to take for granted the ease and availability of water today—simply turn on a faucet or buy a plastic bottle at the store. However, climate change impacts the Earth’s water cycle, which has a cascading negative effect on all parts of the ecosystem. Carbonic acid, an acid that forms from carbon dioxide dissolved in water, erodes softer rock faster, meaning that Ha Long Bay and the Twelve Apostles might soon be natural wonders that no longer exist. Legzira Beach in Morocco has already experienced irreversible damage to the landscape. One of its famous arches collapsed due to rising sea levels and dryness. An inevitable collapse of the second arch may not be far behind. Similarly, increased instances of drought at the Brazil-Argentina border will diminish the water flow of the Iguazu Falls, meaning one of the most immense and powerful waterfalls in the world could one day slow to a relative trickle.
Whether it is the Great Blue Hole of Belize, caused by an underwater sinkhole, or the cascading steps of Pamukkale, Turkey, or the color-changing lakes of Plitvice, Croatia, water remains a beautiful mystery, a powerful force of nature, and a sustainer of all this planet’s life. As we continue to harness water for modern purposes, such as energy and power, we must also understand it is wholly beyond our control and therefore always something to respect and protect.

Analysis of State and Federal Spending on Infrastructure

Infrastructure is all around us, it allows us to subsist. It’s easy to take for granted, too. Infrastructure is embedded in our lives: the roads we drive, the pipes that deliver us water, the airports we travel through. Turns out, the state of American infrastructure is in constant flux (sometimes dramatically so) and always a point of spirited debate. That debate becomes particularly interesting when infrastructure is compared state to state.

For this analysis, we defined infrastructure as the physical and organizational structures that support the operation of a society. That definition is fundamentally and necessarily broad, because infrastructure has a wide footprint. As of 2013, 14.5 million workers—11 percent of the U.S. workforce—called themselves employees of infrastructure.

On the one hand, that’s a lot of people. On the other, it’s small—considering how much help our infrastructure actually needs. Take our surface transportation systems, for example. As of 2015, deficiencies in American transportation infrastructure cost households and businesses nearly $147 billion a year. And $36 billion of that comprises—no surprise—travel delays. According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, each year Americans spend a combined 600,000 years stuck in traffic. Talk about road rage.

Is there anything to be done? Well, generally, when a state invests a lot of money in its infrastructure, the federal government does too. And more money for infrastructure, logically, leads to improvements.

The states that invest the most in infrastructure include Texas, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, California and New York. Still, likely due to their population size, cities in these states—Chicago, New York, Miami, San Francisco and LA—remain some of the most congested in the country.

The states that spend the least? Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Rhode Island are all at the bottom of the spending spectrum. And yet, in terms of traffic, only Hawaii—with Honolulu—finds itself a victim of truly heinous traffic congestion.

So what about when states are ranked differently—say, by infrastructure spending per capita, to reflect fluctuations in population? We calculated infrastructure spending per capita—from the states themselves, and from the federal government—and tracked the results. States like Texas, Utah, Ohio and California spend a lot on infrastructure themselves, but do not receive commensurate funding from the federal government.

Conversely, states like Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and Rhode Island have the opposite problem: They receive, relative to other states, plenty of federal infrastructure funding, but do not dole out state funding for infrastructure to the same degree.

With many states struggling with funding discrepancies, the future of infrastructure may be faulty. According to experts, if the current infrastructure investment gap—what is invested vs. what needs to be invested—is not closed, the US economy will lose nearly $4 trillion in GDP by 2025.

Remote Monitoring of Distribution System Operations at Pressure Reducing Valve Vaults

The City of Barrie, Ontario water operations services approximately 147,000 customers. The water operations consist of a single low-lift pumping station that supplies a surface water treatment plant as well as a network of several groundwater wells, in-ground storage facilities, booster stations and elevated storage tanks. As with most water systems, focus has been on gathering monitoring and alarm data from these major operations points. However, the water is pumped through miles of water distribution piping, often with little or no consistent monitoring of the overall system health.

Over the last few years, the City of Barrie has been adding monitoring to several locations in the system using the cloud-based SCADA system from High Tide Technologies. This system enables the water operations team to get a better idea of the overall condition of the entire distribution system. The most advantageous place to measure pressures and flows has been at pressure reducing valve chambers. The reason for this is that the pressure reducing valve is located at the border of two pressure zones. By placing a pressure transmitter on each side of the valve the operations personnel can monitor the pressures in each zone. These chambers are also usually roomy enough to accommodate some extra equipment.

The installations are quite simple. Insertion flow meters can be installed into some brands of pressure reducing valves. These flow meters require no changes to existing piping and will provide flow data suitable for analysis of system health. Many times these chambers will not have power. If that is the case, power generators are available that will use the water flowing through the piping, along with the pressure drop, to generate electric power. This is not a significant amount of electric power, but enough to run instrumentation and the High Tide Technologies remote terminal unit (RTU). The picture below shows the inside of the PRV chamber with the High Tide Technologies RTU.

The City of Barrie has nine pressure reducing valve chambers using High Tide Technologies RTUs. Eight of the chambers have power supplied to them. One uses the power generator described above. For more than three years, the power generator, the High Tide Telemetry unit, and the instruments have been providing data and alarms to the Barrie operators. This information allows them to better understand their system, ensure that it is working properly and it allows them to respond to unusual occurrences quickly.

Dave Truax, Supervisor of Ground Water Supply for the City of Barrie, says, “High Tide telemetry units allow us to collect data and to alarm our system in locations where we would otherwise have no monitoring capabilities. Traditional SCADA is expensive to install and to maintain, but High Tide units provide us with many of the benefits of SCADA at a much lower cost. The units have proven themselves to be reliable and we have improved our system performance thanks to the information supplied by High Tide’s system. One of the biggest advantages is their ease of installation – it is virtually plug & play. Just about anyone can install them without the need of extensive training.”

Because the High Tide Technologies system is a “cloud-based” system, the operations staff have access via a secure portal from any Internet-connected device. Through this portal they can look at a snapshot of system status or drill down and look at trends for pressures and flow rates. Some examples are shown below.

The advantages of this system are extensive. The operators receive alarms when pressures or flow rates are out of range that will alert them to possible leaks. They can look at trends to see if the system is functioning correctly and if the PRVs are set appropriately for that particular time of year. All of this without having to physically visit the valve vaults especially in those cold winter months.