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Shoalhaven Water takes digital leap

Shoalhaven Water in New South Waters has implemented Schneider Electric's SCADA — supervisory control and data acquisition — expert system to help manage and upgrade its 5000 km² site.

The utility is taking a fresh approach to delivery of 45 million litres of drinking water to the NSW south coast area each day.

GeoSCADA Expert uses connectivity, cloud compatibility and the Internet of Things to help track and access assets. Typically this methodology reduces engineering time and effort and can reduce workloads by 90%, compared to a traditional human machine interface (HMI)/SCADA system deployment.

For Shoalhaven, the installation was able to move quickly, with two to three sites being rolled out each day, and well over 60% of the telemetry installation completed in the first year of the three-year project.

Nicole Blackburn, Schneider Electric’s Director Sales for Industrial Automation explained that Shoalhaven Water has adopted a smarter, digital approach to managing its water.

“It has a mapping function, which provides Shoalhaven the ability to overlay [geographic information system] mapping and [Bureau of Meteorology] data in the event of a storm to better predict where localised flooding may occur, due to the lay of the land. The value this functionality has delivered has also extended to the local emergency management centre,” she said.

The speed of the roll out meant the customer team had quick remote access, including on their mobile devices, meaning they can respond more quickly to any fault events as they occur. This has been particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, with team members having the ability to work from home easily and productively, even during shutdowns and with social distancing requirements.

“The reporting and analytic function of GeoSCADA has been a huge time saver for Shoalhaven, removing the need to manually enter data into spreadsheets and then manually analyse,” Blackburn said.

“This function also supports improved ease of reporting, with the ability to easily pull reports from the software for both regulator and management needs.”

Site improvements

Notifications of problems, such as leaks and pressure, are now received immediately by way of automatic alarms, meaning Shoalhaven Water is able to fix issues even before customers are aware of them.

“Previously the SCADA server was in control of all sites — such as whether a valve would open and close, or a pump would start and stop — was reliant on the receiving reservoir first reporting its level to the server, the server comparing this level to cut in and cut out set points, and then actioning,” Blackburn said.

This system of back and forth was even required when the controlling valve was at the same site as the reservoir, which led to lengthy delays between level updates and actioned controls per site.

“It was compounded by poor communications coverage at some sites, meaning the maximum cut out levels at reservoirs were set rather low — usually between 90% and 93% — to prevent reservoir overflows. This meant that Shoalhaven Water could not effectively utilise 10% of clearwater storage capacity within the network,” she said.

The new smart system runs on an event-driven, peer controlled telemetry network, which fundamentally improves communications.

“Peer messages are sent directly between source and destination recording telemetry unit, as well as the delivery sites pumps and valves almost instantly,” she said.

“Set points for reservoirs with local inlet valves are now stored locally, and controlled locally, without requiring actioning from the SCADA server.

“This has effectively increased the clearwater storage, and production capacity of Shoalhaven Water by 10% without any major capital expenditure to build new reservoirs, which has shown to be very beneficial in peak summer and holiday demand periods.”