Improving Scalability and Flexibility for Three Water Districts

Jan. 14, 2022

The Warren, Simpson and Butler County Water Districts in Kentucky serve more than 80,000 residents, delivering more than 8.1 million gallons of water per day through 1,145 miles of water lines across 530 square miles. 

In late 2019, the three water districts faced barriers to scalability and flexibility with their existing iFix system. Analyzing data from their existing SCADA system was time-consuming; several hours were devoted each day to checking each individual site to pinpoint issues and decide how to deploy technicians. The amount of time needed to make meaningful insights from their data prevented the districts from optimizing their operational performance. 

The Warren, Simpson and Butler County Water Districts wanted to upgrade to an automation solution that was data-rich and could match the existing and future needs of the districts in an unrestricted and dynamic way. 

Vertech worked with Warren Water to implement Ignition Perspective to meet their needs. The project was completed in 2021. 

Now, instead of devoting several hours every day, the water districts can now spot issues across their system in seconds, says James Kent, industrial programmer with Vertech. Creating reports, once a difficult and tedious process, is now entirely automatic and historized. 

Among other innovative features of a modern SCADA system, this project showcased great UI/UX design. “We worked to build toward something that felt like an extension of your phone or tablet – what people are used to on the consumer side,” Kent said. 

Vertech built the solution in a tiered adoption strategy that maintained the reliability of both SCADA systems, allowing the districts to phase out their old system at their discretion. The project’s advanced UI/UX design led to a faster adoption process than expected.  “The adoption process was much more rapid and instantaneous than we hoped for,” Kent said. 

Vertech pulled in their knowledge working with web-based systems in other industries like pharmaceuticals and automotive to employ best practices for Warren Water. “This water district has some of the trending analytics capabilities you expect to see in multi-hundred-thousand-dollar installations for an automotive environment that’s more self-contained,” Kent said. 

“The amount of data they had before and what we have now in terms of trending – the scale in and of itself with more than 50,000 tags, the richness of trends, understanding everything on a granular level – it far exceeds what you traditionally see in most environments of that type right now.” 

With much greater flexibility, the water districts can now scale faster. “They have new people moving every day. What they traditionally had was a multi-day affair to commission and add a new site and bring it into their SCADA system,” Kent said. “What was a two-to-three-day effort can now be completed in 45 minutes…They are more willing to grow and expand operations because they have way less long-term headaches.” 

Kent is also proud that this project made the water districts more inclusive. “Every person has the ability to use the system to try to advocate for things that they think will make a difference,” Kent said. “It empowers people who traditionally work at the shop floor technician level and participate in that environment to say, ‘This is what I’m seeing’ to their managers, and the data backs it up…Anyone can get value from it depending on what they need it for.”