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Meeting Modern Water and Waste Water Needs

by John Fryer

Most New Englanders are familiar with the summer migration to Cape Cod, where an otherwise quiet part of Massachusetts turns into a hot vacation spot. In fact, the town of Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod sees their population increase from 25,000 to 120,000 people in the summer months.

While this brings a boost to the local economy, it also creates unique challenges from an infrastructure standpoint – particularly on the town’s water system, which faces water and waste water burdens from seasonal population growth.

Other unique challenges the town faces from a water infrastructure perspective include:

  • A pumping station dating from the late 19th century is Falmouth’s main water source, delivering clean, but unfiltered water.
  • Increased regulations that mandate tight water and waste water quality levels that are difficult to meet.
  • Budget constraints that force the town to re-think their usual 24/7 staffing model for the summer months.

Given this, the local government decided to invest in a reliable, modern control and information architecture. While Falmouth was comfortable with including standard controls, PLC’s and actuators, they realized that running the SCADA and related control/information software on a standard server would only give them 99% reliability and expose them to unplanned downtime.

Falmouth determined that using standard servers would result in roughly three unplanned downtime events each year, resulting in approximately 3 ½ days each year without operational water and wastewater management systems. This was unacceptable to the water department, who also acknowledged that their expertise was not in maintaining computer systems, but in running water & waste water operations.

This is precisely the type of situation where edge computing is most valuable – a remote environment where applications run critical tasks and functions with little or no IT expertise.

To address this critical piece of the puzzle, Falmouth’s engineering team turned to our team at Stratus Technologies. As part of an overall solution from Rockwell Automation and other Rockwell Encompass partners, we deployed a continuous availability and virtualization solution on our ftServer platform, which enabled all Falmouth’s applications to run on a single server.

Falmouth no longer had to worry if a component failed – all applications would keep running and automatically re-synchronize if a component failed. The result was an overall solution with 99.99% uptime – or less than 1 hour of unplanned downtime per year.

This more reliable system also eliminated the need for on-call operators at the plant. Falmouth could also now diagnose and remotely address nearly all operational issues, meaning staffing levels could be planned and maintained more efficiently, saving money for the town budget. Finally, this new server minimized data loss and largely automated state reporting requirements, allowing Falmouth town personnel to work on new projects.

Stories like this are common at water/waste water plants. Fortunately, when municipalities invest in the right technologies, they can create real value for their communities through cost savings and minimized risk of system failure.

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