Mar 06, 2003

Replacing the London Water Supply SCADA System

Remote Monitoring

For Thames Water, managing the process of water abstraction
through to delivering treated water to more than five million customers in
London involves plant control at more than 150 locations. Most of these are
unmanned as the London Water Supply (LWS) supervisory control and data
acquisition (SCADA) system carries remote control signals to operate the plant
and to monitor its status.

The existing system was developed in the late 1980s in
parallel with the implementation of the London Water Control Centre (LWCC) to
manage the operation of the Thames Water Ring Main (TWRM). The system includes
14 pump out shafts delivering drinking water to 60 service reservoirs. The LWCC
also manages the two area control centres (ACCs) at Hammersmith and Merton
along with 12 sub-control centres that collectively control more than 200
pumping stations, boreholes and unmanned treatment sites. Furthermore, it
monitors output from the five major surface Water Treatment Works (WTWs). These
are some of the largest in Europe with a combined treatment capacity of 675
million gallons (U.S.) per day.

The Need to Upgrade

The move to a new system was driven by the increasing business
need to be able to share data within the SCADA system with other operational
and management information systems. The new system would try to capitalize on
the open system architecture philosophy, building on Microsoft application
technology already introduced within Thames Water. There also was the need to
introduce a long-term historic database, automatic report generation and an
ad-hoc query system not provided by the system in use.

These wishes were coupled with performance problems on the
existing system in terms of hardware and software redundancy, workstation
restrictions and hardware reliability resulting in increasing system down time.
The system also was reaching its database capacity and had a limited ability to
add new areas to the system. Finally, the old system was not year 2000 (Y2K)


The search for a replacement system was based on the
principle guidelines that it should improve flexibility, scalability and
functionality without compromising system performance. This process included
rationalizing the system hardware and reducing the number of graphics and
system alarms. To meet these objectives, it was decided the system's real-time
database should be built on the concept of object oriented technology. This idea
groups all the otherwise separately listed attributes and components (e.g., a
pump) into one object of the database. The new system also had to be able to
support open database connectivity (ODBC). To comply with Thames Water's
information technology strategy, Windows NT was chosen as the operating system.
This system provided true 32-bit client server architecture installed as a
distributed system with full dual redundancy, support for TCP/IP protocol
standards, an interface to the three types of existing plant control equipment
and integration into the existing telecommunications network.

In October 1997, following completion of the User
Requirement Specification and outline design documentation, an open
advertisement was placed in the European Journal based on a set of
predetermined qualification criteria. The 13 companies that replied then were
reduced to six by eliminating those that did not meet the all the necessary
compliance requirements. A formal tender invitation was given in January 1998
to the remaining six companies. The contract was to be given under the Thames
modified I. Chem. E. Green Book conditions with detailed design and
implementation to be carried out by the successful contractor.

The emphasis of this upgrade was not only on getting the
right system at the right value, but also awarding the contract to a contractor
who could demonstrate its commitment to the project and to working as a
partner. Following an evaluation and interviews, the contract was awarded in
May 1998 to Aston Dane plc.

The requirement specification for the new system soon
recognized that the ideal product was not readily available in the market.
However, Aston Dane's approach as an independent systems integrator had enabled
them to review a number of possible solutions before selecting Verano's
(formerly part of Hewlett-Packard) RTAP NT as the preferred choice.

The LWS SCADA system was to be the first major worldwide
RTAP application running in native NT. Therefore, it was recognized that there
would be a significant amount of development work necessary to achieve the
conversion from Unix to NT and provide the required functionality through a new
Visualizer man/machine interface (MMI).

Initial user workshops were held to define the overall
system design and architecture. This process led to the detailed design phase
and subsequent completion in November 1998 of a Master Functional Design
Specification (MFDS) that presented the standards for the overall system.

For implementation purposes the contract was broken down
into project areas with individual Functional Design Specifications (FDS) for
each one to reflect the five major WTWs (Kempton, Walton, Ashford Common,
Hampton and Coppermills), the ACCs and Sub-Control Centres, the Thames Valley
Raw Water Abstraction, the TWRM and the LWCC (the nerve centre for the entire


The replacement of the existing system posed many technical
challenges. Not the least of these was the requirement to change from the old
to the new system while keeping the Treatment Works and Distribution network
fully operational. Mapping the existing flat file data into new
"objects" was a major undertaking. Especially when considering the
current system has 300,000 data points.

In order to satisfy the initial tight time constraints for
the project and to meet some of the technical requirements imposed by such a
large and complex system, Verano had to accelerate the development road map for
RTAP NT. In parallel, Aston Dane concentrated its effort on the detailed design
including data mapping, database design, historian configurations, web browser
design for reporting and ad-hoc querying, alarm and security coding as well as
the Visualizer MMI constructions.

Although a fully supported version of native RTAP NT
including the Visualizer MMI was released prior to Christmas 1998, the project
team made the decision in January 1999 that the project's overall completion
would not be possible in time for the Millennium. Therefore, the decision was
made to implement Y2K compliance measures on the existing system.


The site installation program was to be implemented on a
site-by-site basis, thus progressively changing the old system for the new. The
new system would run in parallel with the existing system to avoid any potential
impact on the day-to-day management of supplying water to London.

Implementation at the Kempton WTW commenced in late spring
of 1999 and was completed by the end of November. Despite rigorous factory testing
prior to shipping to the site, performance and stability problems began to
surface. The problems related to the new Visualizer interface and system
redundancy software causing workstation lock ups and a performance slowdown.
The resolution became a major rewrite of the software and retesting to identify
and eradicate all bugs. This process took more than a year to accomplish as
problems encountered at the site often were difficult to duplicate in a factory
test environment.

Implementation finally was able to progress last spring
starting with the Raw Water Abstraction system followed by Walton WTW last
summer. Despite some further software interface issues (unrelated to the
previous major problems) that had to be overcome, positive progress has been made.
These three sites are now fully running on Verano's RTAP NT with the old system
decommissioned. Many of the benefits of the new system are now being realized
and the operators' confidence in the system continues to grow.

Implementation also has finished at Ashford Common, the
largest WTW, and is well under way at Hampton. The ACCs, TWRM and LWCC also have commenced installation in
parallel with the WTWs. Coppermills followed in the early fall once Hampton was
complete. Due to the sheer size and complexity of the system and the need to
undertake acceptance testing in a controlled manner, overall completion is now
expected by the end of June 2003. Along the way the project team also has had
to amend and grow the system to incorporate the new drinking water regulations
for Cryptosporidium and plumbosolvency and new engineering projects.

Despite the length of the project, the system and technology
developed is still at the forefront of the SCADA industry. The project team has
been able to benefit from the emerging web technology to develop a first class
ad-hoc query system that now is being adapted for use elsewhere in the

About the author

Neil Parker, B.Sc., C.Eng., MICE, CIWEM, is a senior project manager for Thames Water, Hampton, England.