May 15, 2020

Integrate & Streamline: Drinking Water

This article originally appeared in WWD May 2020 issue as "Integrate & Streamline" 

smart water

Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) has been providing water and electricity to the city of Riverside, California, since 1895. As an innovative public utility serving 70,000 customers, RPU has developed a new initiative, Utility 2.0 — a strategic plan to address big challenges that all utilities face. Some of the challenges that affect the delivery of safe drinking water include: aging infrastructure, climate change, new government regulations, aging workforce and of course, technology. Technology has a role to play in all these areas, and Riverside is known for keeping ahead of the curve. 

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Digitizing Sample Data

In 2007, when most municipalities relied on spreadsheets and pen and paper reporting, RPU implemented WaterTrax to consolidate and automate water quality sample data transfers from the laboratories. Included in the implementation was a thorough import and migration of historical data. 

Having state-certified environmental laboratories upload results they produce directly into WaterTrax allows RPU to utilize the platform as its secure database of record. There is no ability for the end user to edit an analytical result or accidentally make a typo. WaterTrax’s user-friendly interface gives RPU immediate access to the information in an organized format. Out of the box report generating, archiving and trend analysis tools are utilized on a daily basis to fulfill data requests and to monitor treatment plant processes and raw water trends. It streamlines regulatory compliance and provides alert notifications when parameters are under or over the set range, which allows the utility to geographically pinpoint trouble spots and enact corrective measures when needed.

membrane filtration
Implementing a data tracking system allowed Riverside Public Utilities to better understand its sampling data while also integrating it with other siloed and isolated systems in the municipality.

In 2018, WaterTrax released a free API to existing customers as a means to seamlessly integrate the application with third party systems (e.g. BI tools, CMMS, GIS, etc.), in a secure and automated manner. As expected, RPU was quick to jump on board and see how it could further improve efficiencies in operations and what improvements, if any, could be made with deeper data analytics.

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Putting the New API to Use

Robin Glenney, water quality administrator at RPU, spearheaded the API adoption, along with the PI team. With a unique API key issued to securely access the API, the utility began configuring the tool to appropriately map and subsequently trigger the transfer of hundreds of thousands of data points from a multitude of analytes associated with hundreds of sampling locations into its internal OSISoft PI System. The entire process of integrating WaterTrax with the PI System, which included a stringent quality assurance testing process to ensure accuracy of data, was completed in less than six months. 

The API function enabled the transfer and ingestion of water quality data from WaterTrax into RPU’s internal business intelligence tool, OSISoft PI System, which centralizes data sourced from other business units including SCADA, Esri GIS and its asset management/work order system (UWAM). The integration enables RPU to view current data from systems that were previously siloed and isolated. This integration has provided the utility with a more holistic view of its distribution system samples, treatment plant process control samples and groundwater well samples. Having all the data automatically funnel into a centralized system as it becomes available means staff no longer needs to manually extract data separately from WaterTrax, SCADA and UWAM before performing subsequent data manipulation. This has made the process of data compilation and report generation much more efficient.

The integration of the OSISoft PI and WaterTrax has yielded other benefits to the utility and its key users. Visual displays can now be created and automatically updated as new data is made available. Moreover, dashboards are displayed on a secure site for operators and management to see in real time. This has had a significant impact on the operations team with respect to improving the efficiency of water quality management.

map and report
Secure website dashboards allow workers, managers and other utility personnel to see real-time data of the system at a glance and to coordinate necessary work by integrating with its ESRI GIS platform and other siloed systems within the uility.

RPUs groundwater wells and treatment facility effluents blend prior to entering the distribution system. Real-time data from SCADA and WaterTrax are integrated in a Blend Model dashboard where more than 500 calculations run real time and show operators the blend at each transmission main, as well as entering the distribution system. If there is a change to the blend that exceeds the established setpoints, the water quality team gets an email or text message alert. This allows the operational team to make timely and appropriate decisions. 

Water quality data from WaterTrax and service requests from UWAM are plotted on a map in ESRI GIS and displayed on a dashboard, allowing staff to visualize the location of service calls alongside chlorine residuals and other water quality data.

“The API integration has really improved our ability to quickly make decisions based on real time data”, said Robin Glenney. “The advantage of combining information from SCADA, UWAM, and WaterTrax gives us the big picture in one place and allows us to improve performance and operational efficiency.” 

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About the author

John Yap is senior product manager of WaterTrax for Aquatic Informatics. Yap can be reached at [email protected].

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