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SCADA Networks: Enhancing Efficiency and Safety in Water and Wastewater Management

Updated: Jun 14

Water and wastewater treatment plant

Providing clean, potable water is a key goal for any civic body. Water and wastewater treatment is a meticulous process that involves several steps where the water is rid of contaminants and processed to ensure it’s fit for reuse and consumption. 

Typically, much of this process is automated to help efficiently manage a city or town’s water supply. This requires rigorous monitoring of often underground facilities where governments cannot deploy a 24/7 human presence. This is where water and wastewater SCADA networks come in.

They help administrators remotely oversee and control equipment and ensure the water purification process is progressing optimally. SCADA systems can have a transformative effect on the efficiency and efficacy of water treatment plants. Here’s everything you need to know about SCADA systems and how they relate to water utilities. 

The Need for Optimizing Water Treatment Facilities 

Water is perhaps the most precious resource on the planet. And increasingly, there is less and less of it. Population growth, industrialization, and agricultural growth have led to greatly increased consumption of this resource. Meanwhile, over 38,000 liters of sewage are generated each day and only a fraction of this is treated.

Water and wastewater management helps salvage usable water and funnel it back to communities and businesses that need it. It’s a more energy-efficient process than desalination meaning it’s worth investing in to acquire all the water available. Furthermore, water treatment also helps detoxify sewage which would otherwise pollute oceans or even freshwater bodies once it’s released.

Optimizing this process helps increase the capacity of existing water treatment plants and recycle more of the wastewater generated. As a utility operator, it also directly benefits you by reducing costs and improving productivity at your facility. 

What Are SCADA Networks?

A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system allows you to remotely supervise and control all the field devices at any site. Today, SCADA systems are ubiquitous across all kinds of public and private facilities. They’re particularly common to see at utilities, such as oil and gas, power distribution, and water and wastewater treatment sites. 

SCADA is typically understood to be a software system that helps you manage a facility’s operations. Broadly, it has four functions:

  • Data Acquisition: The system collects all kinds of data, such as sensor readings and progress indicators, from across the facility, standardizing it for central access.

  • Data Transmission: The collected data is transmitted over network, either through an automated process or in response to a specific request, via different communication protocols, such as Modbus, Profibus, serial, or Ethernet/IP. 

  • Data Presentation: The centralized data is analyzed and organized into custom formats to provide specific insights for system operators, allowing them to make management decisions. 

  • Control: SCADA networks also allow you to dispatch commands to your remote devices to influence or reconfigure their operations. Most control actions are implemented by hardware units, such as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) or Remote Terminal Units (RTUs). 

There is also a less common, alternative view that SCADA is a plant’s overall control system encompassing both its software and hardware elements. In either case, SCADA systems have proven fundamental to plant and facility operations for years.

Benefits of SCADA Networks in Water and Wastewater Treatment

Top view of a water and wastewater treatment complex

SCADA is a very versatile system. It can be configured to help optimize operations at anything from an oil rig to a chemical factory. There are a host of benefits to using them at water treatment facilities.  

1. Comprehensive Monitoring

The central advantage of a SCADA system is that it offers you deep visibility into your plant’s processes. You can monitor everything from water tank levels to valve pressure, water quality and temperature, catchment rainfall, irrigation status, and more. Sensors placed at strategic locations throughout your site will capture the readings and transmit it to your SCADA database.

Your SCADA acts as a central hub for collecting this information, while also performing the necessary conversions to standardize the data. For example, temperature is converted to degrees Celsius, water levels to liters, and transmit signal strength to dBm. This data is collated and made available to the necessary stakeholders to help optimize your water and wastewater plant’s operations.

2. Real-Time Alerts

SCADA works in real time, gathering the necessary data and processing it into instant insights for your utility operators. It’s the primary tool for early fault detection at water treatment facilities, due to its ability to pull data from a multitude of sensors across your site. 

The moment your water flow rate, chemical concentration, pH level or any other metric exceeds acceptable parameters, an alarm or warning is sent out. This quick reaction mechanism helps water and wastewater managers quickly identify potential challenges and take preventative action. 

In addition to timely interventions, this also helps you reduce downtime while improving outcomes, such as water quality and distribution efficiency. With the right SCADA provider, you can also set up notifications for custom events and monitor the exact metrics you want in order to influence specific processes. 

3. Automation

SCADA systems allow you to automate operations at water and wastewater sites, helping improve response times and efficiency across the utility. Actions like pump control, cyclical changeover, irrigation systems control, dam gauging, and gate control can all be automated, if necessary, in response to specific conditions.

While quality manpower will always be necessary for water utilities, SCADA can help make the process seamless and energy-efficient. It’s also crucial from a regulatory standpoint as problems such as overflows at wastewater treatment sites can invite costly EPA fines. When a system is automated or cloud-connected, you can implement redundancies that will, temporarily at the very least, ensure there are no violations while your managers work to manually resolve the issue.

4. Remote Management

SCADA is a remote system. This means your operators don’t have to be physically present everywhere throughout your facility 24/7. This is especially useful at water and wastewater utilities, large parts of which are situated underground. 

Wireless radio systems, such as those provided by XetaWave, help connect your SCADA network to sensors, PLCs, and other devices to facilitate data input and output. Wireless networks can also help host this information in the cloud rather than just at on-site servers, making it accessible to all kinds of stakeholders. On-site operators can access it via HMI screens, whereas off-site personnel can access through any cloud-connected portable device.

5. Predictive Analytics

A SCADA system is invaluable just for its ability to report real-time readings across your water and wastewater facility. However, its benefits extend beyond that. Edge computing systems, such as XetaWave’s XetaEdge, can help predict events.

Powered by AI and machine learning, they can analyze current and historical data to deliver useful actionable insights. For example, the system can monitor equipment wear and tear to provide an estimation of when it’s likely to need maintenance, especially when usage hours are volatile. 

The system can analyze historical rainfall and water consumption data to predict when water availability and consumption, respectively, will spike or subside. Based on weather patterns, it can also provide tips on the ideal way to manage irrigation controls for your agricultural sites. This allows you to make before-time instead of in-time interventions to massively improve productivity at water and wastewater sites.

6. Integration Capabilities

As a modular system, SCADA also lets you integrate applications to include a diverse range of components within your overall network. With the improved monitoring and processing capabilities, you can acquire a comprehensive review of your plant’s treatment process while boosting your output. 

In fact, with the right provider, you can implement robust third-party integration to extend your plant’s capabilities any which way you like. With XetaEdge, for example, you can integrate crucial applications, such as NodeRED,, IoT View, Edge ACM, Ignition Edge, and Docker, among others. You can also host your own custom apps developed in Java, Python, Ruby, Perl, and other platforms. 

7. Workplace Safety

SCADA systems can be powerful safety facilitators at water and wastewater plants. This is an important consideration given that workplace accidents and injuries are on the upswing. SCADA can help safeguard employees and equipment at your facility through continuous monitoring and control of various parameters.

For example, by monitoring indicators such as pressure and chemical levels and equipment statuses in real time, the system can ensure all your processes are being executed within safe limits. 

SCADA systems can also keep tabs on employee activity as they badge in and out of the facility. SCADA can alert you to possible instances of employee overwork or exhaustion and implement timely substitutions. Altogether, this helps substantially boost safety for people and equipment at water and wastewater sites, while also helping you comply with necessary workplace safety regulations. 

Facilitate Your SCADA Network With Industry-Leading Wireless Communications

XetaWave is the largest independent U.S. manufacturer of wireless communication platforms. Its products are proven devices, guaranteed to work in extreme conditions, and can be fully customized to any SCADA use case. Experience exceptional support and competitive prices from the industry’s best engineering, sales, and service teams. Schedule a free demo to see XetaWave products in action. Reach out to see how XetaWave can help optimize SCADA networks at your water and wastewater facility today.

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