By Louis Schoolcraft, Vice President, Ti-SALES
Originally appearing in The Source, a New England Water Works Association member newsletter, Spring 2021.
Photos courtesy of Ayyeka.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down, municipal water utilities faced the challenges of doing more with less: serving a growing population with tight budgets and staffing. Today, essential water and wastewater workers face all these same challenges, but with the added concern that a single sick or quarantined employee could leave a small department overwhelmed.
Our municipal utility customers are using a number of tools to find more hours in their weeks; one powerful (and surprisingly easy-to-implement!) option is remote monitoring technology.
“We have 21 remote pump stations, a plant, a collection system, and front office to operate,” one of our customers told us. “We have 4 employees. We get stretched thin at times, especially when something goes south on us. Utilizing [remote monitoring] has allowed us to reduce our site visits from three times per week to one.”
What Can I Use Remote Monitoring For?
Every utility has assets they need to monitor regularly: water system pressure monitors; the levels in sewer manholes, water reservoir tanks, and groundwater; and combined sewer overflow levels, are among the most common. When those assets are located in remote rural areas – or in dense urban populations where social distancing is a very real concern – the time (and risks) add up.
Remote monitoring technology can make all of this easier and bring the data right to your devices. This technology can help utilities navigate not just through a global pandemic, but provide operational efficiencies that can become the norm in the future.
In addition to the time savings, remote monitoring can help utilities anticipate and avoid complications and crises:
- Water System Pressure: Tracking water pressure over time can allow a utility to identify drops in pressure that may indicate leaks or breaks – or high pressure buildups that can warn of potential system damage or an upcoming break.
- Sewer Manhole Levels: Looking at sewer manhole levels during a storm event can help a utility locate a potential blockage to be removed.
- Reservoir and Groundwater Tanks: Rapid changes in these levels can indicate a breakage to be immediately addressed.
- Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO): During times of heavy rain overwhelming a combined sewer system, a utility can take proactive measures to avoid an overflow event – as well as the fines from those events!
Is Remote Monitoring Safe?
Cybersecurity is on everyone’s minds today, and with good reason: cyber-attacks and ransomware are becoming more common every year. When choosing a remote monitoring system for your utility, it’s critical to select one with cutting-edge technology and security features.
One easy way to eliminate unnecessary risk is to choose a “one-way” system: it monitors the assets you need, sending you regular data to make decisions with, but does not have the capacity to remotely control devices. (As an added benefit, these style systems are often significantly more affordable than two-way monitoring/control systems!)
While this does mean that your remote sites will still need occasional visits, our customers see this as a low price to pay for the risk reduction – especially since many assets need to be regularly examined in-person. “We will never go less than one [site visit per week]. I am a firm believer that eyes must be placed on equipment and systems physically tested,” our customer told us.
Ti-SALES (www.tisales.com) is dedicated to having the fastest service and the most knowledgeable experts in the water and wastewater industry throughout all of New England and New York. Since 1963, we’ve worked with countless water utilities, contractors, consultants, and resellers to provide the highest quality products and solutions to meet their long-term needs. Our remote monitoring solution, the Ayyeka Wavelet device, is a premier Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) device compatible with any type of sensor, existing or new alike.