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Remote Control

Remote Control Technology in the Water Industry

| Editor: Dr. Jörg Kempf

Psyttalia Wastewater Treatment Plant: sewage is pumped through a 1.5 km pipeline from the mainland to the wastewater treatment plant on Psyttalia Island. Pneumatic automation systems reduce the investment, installation and operating costs.
Psyttalia Wastewater Treatment Plant: sewage is pumped through a 1.5 km pipeline from the mainland to the wastewater treatment plant on Psyttalia Island. Pneumatic automation systems reduce the investment, installation and operating costs. (Picture: Festo)

Remote control and automation technology supports monitoring and control of distributed systems such as wells, reservoirs, sewers, pumping stations and water treatment plants from central control stations. This technology can also be installed as a retrofit using wireless or Internet links.

Albert Einstein used the phrase “spooky action at a distance” to describe entanglement between two photons. This type of action at a distance is not meant here but rather bi-directional data transmission (commonly called “communication” in marketing terminology) between two technical systems in the water industry.

It is not hard to see the inherent advantage of remote control. Small and medium-size waterworks and sewage treatment plants can be operated without having anyone on site. When faults occur or thresholds are exceeded, the operator can be notified for example by SMS, and a technician can quickly go out to the site to check things out. Management of a distributed system by remote control from a central control station makes operation faster and more efficient. Volume flows, fill levels, operating states (possibly using a camera) and fault messages can be acquired, analyzed and corrected if necessary. Less manpower is needed and faults can be rectified more quickly.

Remote Monitoring for the Bucharest Water Supply Network

APA Nova Bucaresti (a subsidiary of Veolia Water) is a good example which illustrates the benefits of remote control technology in very large distribution networks. The company manages supply, treatment and distribution of drinking water along with sewage disposal for the city of Bucharest. Water is supplied primarily by pumping water from two rivers which are roughly 20 km from Bucharest. There are three water treatment plants. The water network includes 188 km of above-ground pipes for drinking water, 54 km of underground pipes for raw water (both with gravity flow), 620 excavated wells, 20 tanks (with a total capacity of 360,000 m3), seven pressure booster pump stations (with 52 pump sets) and a 52 km pressurized drinking water distribution network.

Given the sheer size of the water network and the number of hydraulic stations, the remote control systems installed in 2003 are essential for the safety and optimization of the water supply. In order to perform flow analysis in the distribution network and reduce leakage, APA Nova also decided to introduce a zone monitoring system in 2006. By adding precipitation measurement stations and sewage collection tanks, the company can keep a watch on the sewage network and perform operational analysis.

The water extraction stations, treatment plants and pressure boost equipment were included in the first phase. The pressure boost stations (hydrofores) used to distribute water throughout the city districts were added during the second phase.

The Lacroix Sofrel remote control stations monitor more than 120 locations. Some of the communication is PLC-based. Data transfer currently takes place over radio or GSM links but migration to GPRS is planned for the medium term. Control stations acquire and archive the data which is then analyzed and presented as tables, graphs and summary diagrams.

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