SCADA Systems Can Benefit Fom AI Technologies

By Roni Gehlke, Clean Water Magazine editor, Technology and Innovation

Las Virgenes Municipal Water District (LVMWD) has been using supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to collect data for over two decades, just like many other water and wastewater facilities in California. The SCADA system closely monitors every stage of the water treatment process and provides real-time information for analysis. However, the data collection process can be disjointed, leading to fragmented silos in operational technology systems that do not communicate with each other. Despite the benefits gained from such systems, much of the potential has remained unrealized until recently.

LVMWD was searching for a platform to integrate and make use of its SCADA data. To achieve this, they started exploring various Big Data and AI technologies.

“The objective was to collect different types of data into a meaningful pool of information. This would enable our plant operators to better manage and understand the data,” said LVMWD information systems manager Ivo C. Nkwenji. “By doing so, they could optimize plant reliability and performance.”

LVMWD serves over 75,000 people residing in Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village, and unincorporated areas of western Los Angeles County. The District provides potable water, wastewater treatment, recycled water, and biosolids composting services. Its mountainous service area makes it difficult to provide reliable water service, so the District utilizes 25 storage tanks and 24 pump stations to serve its customers. Without a local source of potable water, LVMWD imports 100% of its drinking water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

On the wastewater side, LVMWD provides services to 105,000 residents using a system of 57 miles of trunk sewer lines (ranging from 8 inches to 48 inches in diameter) and two lift stations that pump the wastewater.

“With the help of IOSight LTD, an Israeli company, we implemented iGreen technologies,” Nkwenji said. “This Water Data Management System offers a state-of-the-art infrastructure dashboard and graphs on a web-based platform.”

The iGreen platform provides various functionalities like trending, reporting, and visualization. According to Nkwenji, the platform’s reporting engine is user-friendly and intuitive, so programming experience is unnecessary. The program is designed to facilitate decision-making by conducting real-time analysis of the facility’s overall performance.

As an example of what these types of technologies can do, iGreen uses specific LVMWD dashboards equipped with various visualization and analysis tools. The dashboards offer users a multitude of graphical representation options, including trend lines, bar charts, pie charts, scatter charts, gauges, clocks, value and table displays, matrix widgets, status widgets, and statistical widgets.

It is essential to ensure that equipment undergoes regular preventive maintenance and quality assurance checks to manage infrastructure efficiently. With the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, maintenance management components of infrastructure facilities can be evaluated to schedule equipment maintenance. Additionally, trend reports can be generated for maintenance forecasting to ensure infrastructure robustness and efficiency.

“When we look into bringing internet programming into our system, one of the most important considerations is security,” said LVMWD Water Systems Manager Darrell Johnson. “The iGreen program offers us one-way traffic in getting data from our SCADA system.”

Johnson said that adding web-based programming into the system is a balancing act between risk management and updating outdated systems to make the best possible decisions for the District.

“Experts assess our systems,” he said. “It is a continuous process to keep everything safe.”

Nkwenji explained that instead of accessing directly through the system, the program allows for a separate gathering layer that holds report data. This enables operators to see the data remotely without SCADA access.

“There is no entrance into the SCADA program from this layer of data,” he said. “It has a different set of security protocols to ensure there is no compromise to the SCADA system.”

One benefit for Johnson is that when outside grant and study organizations need data from the SCADA system, they can go to the iGreen system independently and get the necessary data.

“This saves time from operators having to pull reports and provide to external entities, as well as relieves any risk of outsiders having access to our SCADA system,” Johnson said.

For Nkwenji, one of the most significant benefits of using the iGreen system is the help they receive from the program’s designers. Since the program was installed in 2020, they have been able to meet weekly to make sure the programs are running smoothly, and the District is taking advantage of the various capabilities offered by iGreen .

“Our meetings have become an exchange of ideas over time,” he said. “This is what separates iGreen from the other platforms for us.”

“Using AI technology can only help us to be on the leading edge when it comes to a safe community and high water quality, keeping our community first, and having the best possible product,” Johnson said.