California Water District Deploys Wireless Mesh Network for SCADA Communications
Source: 
Firetide Inc.

Wireless network throughput at more than 60 sites ranges from 7 to more than 200 Mbps

Victorville Water District in Los Gatos, Calif., has selected Firetide’s HotPort wireless mesh network as a key element of its SCADA monitoring system upgrade. 

The system was chosen because it provides the high reliability inherent in a mesh architecture, plus ease of installation.

Victorville’s network provides communications to 15 sites, while current expansion plans are to add an additional 45 sites. The sites include various wells, booster pump stations, storage tanks and treatment plants, which are now connected to the network.

Throughput to these remote sites ranges from a low of 7 Mbps to more than 200 Mbps, which provides the water district with a foundation that will support future plans.

Victorville's SCADA and Telemetry Coordinator Jeff Zizzi was assigned to lead the upgrade project, which included identifying a new communications network. 

“We were tasked to find a wireless network that could provide a complete solution from network design and planning to implementation, training and maintenance support,” Zizzi said.

Key challenges experienced by the previous network, which the water district sought to overcome, were related to reliability and performance.

With a single point of failure, the point-to-point solution was susceptible to failures during power outages. It often experienced radio frequency interference from neighboring sites, and during bad weather, accessibility was poor. 

In addition, performance was only 256 Kbps, which meant that polling times were measured in minutes rather than seconds.

Together, these issues could result in communication problems taking up to 8 hours to resolve because of having to address problems at multiple remote locations. The water district wanted to ensure SCADA devices could operate independently if central communications and control failed for any reason.

The SCADA upgrade project team considered and evaluated several types of wireless network technologies, including multi-repeater systems, peer-to-peer and store-and-forward systems, and mesh.

The team determined a mesh topology provided the high reliability, which met their requirements based on its inherent ability to seamlessly reroute around failures and adjust to radio frequency interferences. In addition, they wanted a system that could achieve a minimum throughput of 1.5 Mbps and one the water district could easily install and maintain. 

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