An IoT Approach to Improving Wastewater Facility Operational Efficiency

Abstract: This case study has altered the names of the county and business partners involved. Roadrunner County is at the heart of Arizona’s major commercial and academic hub. This county has taken significant steps to look after the well-being of its citizens by preserving one of the most precious resources: water. Using an IoT solution based on situational awareness, as well as a mobile workforce and decision support system, the Roadrunner County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department provides management and maintenance of the county’s sanitary sewer system.

Category: Case Studies, Blogs March 28, 2024

Intended Audience: Wastewater plant operators, municipal water utility management boards, and stakeholders with financial interest in municipal water plant efficiencies.

Objective: This case study provides an overview of an effective situational awareness strategy that enables personnel to effectively understand and address operations of the facility. Additionally, the case study facilitates the capture of institutional knowledge of the current workforce for effective training of future operators.

Description of System: Serving a population of around 900,000 people, the Roadrunner County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department manages an average daily flow of about 53 million gallons of water. The infrastructure includes 3,080 miles of sewer lines stretching across a 370-square mile area, two metropolitan treatment plants, six subregional facilities, twenty-four lift stations, and 67,760 manholes. The county’s Water Reclamation Facility has been upgraded from a “high purity oxygen conventional pollutant removal” technology to a five-stage “Bardenpho process” that performs complete biological nutrient removal (BNR) of phosphorus and nitrogen. The typical ammonia value coming into the plant is between thirty to forty parts per million. With the current treatment technology, they remove about 99% of that, resulting in the plant’s typical discharge of about one part per million ammonias. As a result, Roadrunner County facilities have the highest nutrient removal levels required by both federal and state regulations to protect water quality.

Challenges within the system include:

  • Management of more than 60 million gallons of sewage each day to support the region’s population of more than one million people
  • To take immediate action when alarms alert operators to issues within the plant
  • With assets spread out over more than 700 miles, operational management is difficult

Description of Intervention: In order to have a successful IoT implementation, Roadrunner County had to consider how automation would impact water quality, how historical data would impact utility costs, and how data analytics would be generated.

  • IoT & Automation Plays a Critical Role in Water Quality: The IoT & automation platform used to operate the facility is a collection of pump-motor controls and software from General Solutions Inc. Using the platform, both facility management and operators can view, evaluate, and modify operations, as well as quickly address any issues that arise. The water treatment plant’s (WTP) IoT system platform plays an integral part in the IoT solution that enables the county to “do more with less” by simplifying the high complexity of wastewater renewal on a county level. The WTP IoT system platform acts as the county’s “industrial operating system” by providing common services such as configuration, deployment, communication, security, data connectivity, people collaboration, and many others. These services enable the county to build a single, unified, and connected “digital plant model” that logically represents its processes, physical equipment, and industrial systems. The digital plant model also gives essential context to data, greatly assisting with diagnostics and troubleshooting, as well as providing valuable system documentation throughout the system life cycle. The WTP IoT solution was able to take the county’s first-generation application and run it on the latest version that provides unsurpassed investment protection. The solution approach embedded in the county wastewater reclamation system has evolved and improved since its inception and has gone beyond traditional HMI SCADA systems.
  • Access to Historical Data Saves in Utility Costs: The data-mining capabilities of the WTP IoT platform produced detailed documentation of the energy savings, which enabled the county to receive a $309,000 incentive rebate check from the local utility. The WTP IoT platform used can store huge volumes of data generated from the county’s industrial wastewater facilities. The platform easily retrieves and securely delivers information to operators’ desktop or mobile devices, enabling them to analyze processes anywhere in real time. It also combines a high-speed data acquisition and storage system with a traditional relational database management system, which facilitates access to plant data using open database standards. This enables faster troubleshooting and easier discovery of high-value process-improvement opportunities. “Being able to access detailed data from the WTP IoT platform allowed the Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department (RWRD) to analyze our electrical usage and determine that we could save more than $176,000 a year on a time-of-use electrical rate,” said the plant operator. “The preliminary analysis would have been impossible to do without the WTP IoT solution, and we would have missed a huge opportunity to reduce our service costs to our ratepayers.”
  • Analytical Advisor: Always on the leading edge of technology, Roadrunner County also uses General Solutions Inc.’s WTP IoT solution, a sophisticated mobile workforce and decision support system. The WTP IoT platform collects information from stand-alone assets. Its exception-based web reports keep everyone on the team up to speed on the current state of plant operations. “The WTP IoT solution allows us to take selected information from the plant that was not previously available in SCADA and push that to the cloud, providing data trends alongside the information that is already available in the SCADA system,” said the plant operator. As a mobile workforce and decision support system, this WTP IoT platform allows the county water technicians to quickly and easily manage operations, both at the plant site and remotely. The WTP IoT platform includes configurable software and ruggedized mobile hardware solutions that enable workflow, data collection, and general task management for plant operations, maintenance management, and production tracking. Its integration with General Solutions Inc.’s WTP IoT system provides a comprehensive analysis and reporting solution that accelerates and sustains operational process improvements, a key component of an effective operations management system. The platform also ensures that the best operating and regulatory procedures are always followed, and data is collected on non instrumented plant assets. In addition, critical environmental, health, and safety inspections are performed on schedule, and mobile operators have vital information at their fingertips to operate plant assets in the most effective manner possible. “The WTP IoT platform has allowed us to capture institutional knowledge of individuals who have been here for many years,” the plant operator said. “These individuals have been extensively interviewed, and we’ve incorporated their knowledge into the electronic rounds to help new operations and management technicians, as well as assist with training.”

Summary of Results: Roadrunner County increased operational improvements with the WTP IoT solution At the facility, the county has achieved a 50% increase in operational efficiency and a 10% reduction in energy consumption. “The new WTP IoT solution system at the treatment facility has allowed us to double the capacity of the plant while operating with the same number of people we had on staff before the expansion,” said a general manager for the county. “That roughly equates to a 50% increase in operational efficiency.”

Institutional knowledge is captured to train the future workforce, successfully addressing concerns of the facility’s aging staff. Sophisticated data-mining capabilities and energy-efficiency upgrades resulted in the county receiving a $350,000 rebate check from the local utility.

Conclusion: The Roadrunner County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department has implemented a strategy in the county’s WTP IoT-based solution. By using a goal-oriented design, effective window structure, color usage, and actionable alarm management, the county experienced dramatic results.

Operators who previously ignored too many nuisance alarms now take immediate action. Problems are identified and addressed right away before they escalate. “We’ve been able to notice a distinct improvement by operators when things are going wrong and to take suitable response and action,” said the plant operator.

Written by:
Michael Gaza, Pump & Compressor OEM Bus Development Manager USA, Schneider Electric – Square D
Published In: Internet of Things Solutions for Pumping Systems Guidebook
Year of Publication: 2023



Get the latest pump industry news, insights, and analysis delivered to your inbox.