03/21/2022 | Industrial Water Treatment | 8 MINUTE READ

SCADA Systems & Applications in Water Treatment Plants

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The only way for communities to receive clean and affordable water is for this water to be treated beforehand, which is a process that involves getting rid of any contaminants that are present. At every stage of the water treatment process, data is essential. For instance, various water sensors can be used to detect contaminant levels before and after the treatment has been applied. Once this data has been gathered, the water treatment facility can use the data to determine if additional treatments are necessary.

Data has also proven to be essential for water treatment plants when attempting to detect problems in the facility that could worsen efficiency, cause damage, or lead to equipment malfunctions. Data can be collected for this purpose by installing several flow meters in strategic placements. The data that’s collected from these meters will be immediately sent to plant operators. Once the data is in hand, it’s possible to identify overflows and leaks early on, which means that these issues can be corrected before they worsen and require expensive repairs.

With the data that’s gathered from water quality sensors, it’s possible to improve water quality in an efficient manner. On the other hand, using data to detect issues with the equipment in your facility should help you detect and repair these issues before they become more difficult to manage. The only way for you to be certain that the systems in your industrial plant are as efficient as possible is by constantly searching for problems that could affect system performance. This article offers a comprehensive overview of how SCADA systems can be used to gather data in a water treatment facility.

What is a SCADA System?

SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. Before these systems were created and introduced in manufacturing, industrial, and utility operations, workers would be required to manually operate and monitor this equipment. With the development of programmable logic controllers and microprocessors, these systems could be automated, which meant that manually operating the system was no longer necessary.

Automated monitoring became considerably more advanced and effective throughout the latter years of the 20th century. By the early 2000s, open-source SCADA systems were widely adopted. These systems are now able to be connected to tablets and mobile devices in completely remote locations for easy access and control. When property implemented, these systems are comprised of hardware and software components. Industrial facilities that use these systems can:

  • Gather and monitor real-time data
  • Control various industrial processes locally or remotely
  • Record different events via a log file
  • Interact with additional devices throughout the facility, which include valves, sensors, motors, pumps, and HMI software

While SCADA systems have been used in many different industrial facilities, they are exceedingly popular in water treatment plants because of the various types of data that can be gathered and analyzed. Once a SCADA system is properly installed, plant operators are able to gain instant access to the information they need to make critical decisions. Because the systems throughout the water treatment plant are monitored through digital means, the data is considerably more precise and up-to-date.

As mentioned, water treatment plants can use this information to identify such problems as chemical imbalances, leaks, and overflows. The flow meters that are installed throughout the facility will send data to terminal units, after which the data is transmitted to plant operators. By gaining quick access to this information, it’s possible for plant operators to correct the issues early on, which should reduce system downtime.

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Benefits of SCADA Systems in Water & Wastewater Treatment Plants

Once a water or wastewater treatment plant is outfitted with a SCADA system, the facility will benefit from:

  • Real-time data analysis and security
  • Automation with SCADA
  • Reducing water costs for consumers

While the main benefit of these systems is that they allow for real-time data analysis, integrating this system into your facility will also give you the opportunity to automate more industrial processes while also reducing the water costs that are passed on to consumers. These systems are highly beneficial in water treatment plants because of the need for data to correct issues and identify problems before they turn into expensive repairs.

Real-time Data Analysis & Security

Modern SCADA systems are based on a combination of software and hardware, which work together to provide plant operators with real-time data analysis as well as extensive security. As touched upon previously, the flow meters that are installed in your water treatment plant will collect and send data through the SCADA system in real-time, giving you the ability to perform instantaneous data analysis.


As for security, infrastructure for water utilities can be vulnerable, which is why increasing security for this infrastructure is highly recommended. SCADA allows you to connect camera systems throughout the facility. These cameras can be accessed remotely and should give you confidence that these areas are fully secure. By supervising certain areas with a connected camera system, repairs can be made more efficiently when a problem occurs.

Automation with SCADA

Many modern SCADA systems provide users with extensive automation features, which allows plant operators to avoid completing some of the more basic and repetitive tasks that must be performed at a water treatment plant. Even though experienced plant operators are necessary for any water treatment plant, SCADA can be used to identify some of the smaller inconsistencies and issues that might be missed by plant operators.

Keep in mind that automated systems are more energy efficient than manual systems. If you have an automated SCADA system installed in your facility, it should be easier to avoid overflows and similar problems that typically result in violations of EPA regulations. An automated SCADA system will tell you when repairs are needed.

Reducing Water Costs for Consumers

SCADA is able to assist in reducing water costs for consumers as well as utilities. Operators are able to see which systems need additional optimization. Once these systems have been optimized, they should be able to run more efficiently, which reduces operational costs. A reduction in operation costs will likely be passed on to consumers.

Applications of SCADA Systems in Water & Wastewater Treatment Plants

SCADA systems can be used for many distinct applications in water and wastewater treatment plants, the primary of which include:

  • Filtration plants
  • Pumping stations
  • Distribution networks
  • Plant security
  • Data maintenance

The monitoring functions that are included in SCADA software and hardware allow for real-time data analysis across many applications. All of the equipment in your facility that needs to be monitored can be outfitted with a sensor and control relay. These devices will also be placed on remote terminal units, which allows for quick and easy data transmitting.

Filtration Plants

It’s possible for SCADA systems to monitor environmental conditions, UV intensity, tank levels, and chemical levels. Managers and plant operators can use remote monitoring to identify issues that require immediate maintenance without needing to first send technicians to inspect the problem. Operational adjustments can also be made through the control relays with the click of a button.

Pumping Stations

Pump stations are common in rural and urban areas alike. Instead of placing staff members on each pump station, you can monitor all stations from just one location. These stations can be controlled over a network to provide precise maintenance information.

Distribution Networks

Distribution networks consist of several hundred miles of pipe. If you want to monitor the entirety of a distribution network, volume and pressure readings must be obtained continuously from different areas within the network. A SCADA system gives you the ability to collect and display all of this information at once, which should reduce costs and lessen the amount of labor that needs to be done to check the appropriate sensors.

Plant Security

It’s common for water infrastructure to be the target of sabotage, vandalism, theft, and terrorism. You can protect the assets that are stored in the water treatment plant by making sure that unauthorized access doesn’t occur. A SCADA system can be used to monitor motion sensors, video cameras, and door alarms.

Data Maintenance

Operational, asset, and equipment data are all sent through a single SCADA system, which reduces the amount of tasks employees need to complete while also demonstrating regulatory compliance.

The Role of Smart Sensors in SCADA Systems

Smart sensors are a core component of SCADA systems that are positioned throughout numerous areas in a water treatment facility. Every piece of equipment in your facility that water flows through can be equipped with a smart sensor. All of these sensors will work together to send information through a single SCADA system and to a terminal. After this terminal collects the necessary data, plant operators can analyze the data and make informed decisions.

Once a SCADA system and any smart sensors have been installed, your facility will benefit from reduced operational costs, improved security, and increased automation. Keep in mind that these systems have numerous applications and can be used throughout distribution networks, pumping stations, and filtration plants. While water and wastewater treatment plants use SCADA systems more than practically any other industry, these systems are commonly used throughout most types of industrial facilities.

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Posted by Dominic O'Donnell on March 21, 2022

Sensorex is a global leader in the design and manufacture of quality sensors for water quality and process applications. The company offers more than 2000 sensor packages for pH, ORP, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, free chlorine, chlorine dioxide, UV transmittance and other specialty measurements, as well as a full line of sensor accessories and transmitters. Its expert technical support engineers solve analytical sensor challenges with custom designs and off the shelf products.

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