With the US state of California in the midst of an ongoing drought, local water authorities are having to deal with tiered pricing structures that increase the cost of heavy electricity use during peak hours. This comes at a time when water itself is already at a premium.
The Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency (MRWPCA) is one such agency facing these issues. The agency is now using the internet of things (IoT) and converting data into insight to help optimise the distribution of reclaimed water.
The MRWPCA operates a wastewater facility that recycles water that is then used to irrigate crops in the southern Monterey Bay region. The facility treats around 20 million gallons of water each day between its main plant and 25 pumping stations.
However, when demand exceeds the capacity of the plant and its storage reservoirs, wells must be tapped. This requires the use of pumps that use vast amounts of electricity and means the MRWPCA can end up facing punitive tariffs.
The MRWPCA also has to track and manage the intake, treatment, demand and distribution of water, meaning that gauging an overarching picture of water across the entire Monterey region can be a significant challenge.
By combining data from a variety of sensors with the power of the cloud, the MRWPCA can gain real-time insights into what the best move is in the circumstances, and the costs they are likely to face.
To achieve this, the agency has partnered with Candi Controls and MC Engineering to build a new IoT-based solution. The partners are installing industrial-class IoT devices across MRWPCA’s plant, which works alongside a supervisor control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
“While SCADA systems have worked well for the industry historically, they involve very expensive equipment,” said Mark Carey, president of MC Engineering. “Because of this, they have never been deployed widely enough to get a truly holistic set of data. Today’s lightweight, intelligent sensors are able to communicate over a variety of networks, at a fraction of the complexity and cost.”
Candi Controls uses Azure Event Hubs to normalise data and feed it into Azure Stream Analytics. This means a huge stream of data can be harvested each day, creating greater visibility into the amount of energy different processes are using.
Also, thanks to Power BI at the presentation layer, Candi Controls and MC Engineering can provide a rich monitoring and demand management dashboard. This gives the agency’s executives improved visibility of their operations.
“By combining Azure Stream Analytics, Power BI and Candi’s unifying IoT Platform, we are able to quickly and cost-effectively connect and present big data from industrial IoT devices for remote monitoring, analysis and control,” said Steve Raschke, CEO of Candi Controls. “This powerful combination of cloud and edge technologies provides unparalleled optimisation tools for utilities like MRWPCA, and their vendors and customers.”
One vital benefit is the ability to use actual operational data for visualisation and modeling, as the MRWPCA deliver of water cannot be tampered with. The agency can analyse actual data from real pumps and model virtual scenarios.
Once the virtual modeling phase of the system is integrated at the agency’s main facility, the analytics capabilities developed by MC Engineering can tap into the cloud and create real-time process optimisations.
“The cloud’s natural ability to provide these services remotely provides another spectrum of possibilities,” said Carey. “We can look at remote monitoring and potential collaboration with energy utilities — new value and new opportunities not just for MRWPCA, but other water authorities and for the partners who work with them as well.”
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