Protecting America’s Water

Remote monitoring helps keep employees safe while mitigating emergencies

By Greg Jackson

According to the American Water Works Association, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting communities throughout the world, water professionals are working around the clock to ensure that safe, reliable water service continues to flow. But what if many of these essential employees must now work from home or very minimal crews are onsite at the plants? Do these variables affect treatment plants’ ability to prevent unanticipated downtime?

Critical Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave US infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, and for good reason. Our infrastructure is aging, deteriorating, and holding our communities back; we are relying on infrastructure built more than a century ago to meet the needs of a completely changed world.

Effective and resilient water infrastructure is critical to public and environmental health, and to economic sectors worldwide. Unfortunately, investments in water utilities, which include supply systems for distributing drinking water as well as wastewater and sewage treatment systems, have not been keeping up with need. In cities around the globe, the drinking water distribution infrastructure is aging rapidly and encountering failures with increasing frequency. This is challenging under “normal” circumstances but becomes mission critical during a pandemic.

To help address this, forward-thinking municipalities are incorporating state-of-the-art digital technology to avoid unanticipated risks. These innovations can drive significant economic and environmental improvements, and ensure continuity in service when staff are working remotely, like during this pandemic.

Remote Monitoring

Under increased and unprecedented pressure to do more with less, and to find new means of paying for infrastructure, water owners and operators recognize that it is essential to understand and optimize the capacity of their assets. One way they can do this is through the use of remote monitoring software.

Remote monitoring software allows fewer people to monitor many more assets using devices that people already have, such as smartphones and tablets. Uninterrupted remote availability is essential to ensure that systems can be continuously monitored, even without staff onsite or with very few people working at the facility.

The benefits of utilizing a remote monitoring software system via a mobile app include:

  • Streamlines decision making. Push notifications let you quickly see what is wrong, send an acknowledgment, and monitor alarm condition changes in real-time, right from your smartphone.
  • Promotes team problem solving. Chat helps your entire team converse, brainstorm, and share solutions on-the-fly, from wherever they are — whether in the plant, at home, or on the road.
  • Work more efficiently. Team Visibility shows you who has seen an alarm as well as who has acknowledged it, reducing guesswork and redundant responses.
  • Multiple communication channel support. Ensuring resiliency through voice notification and SMS messaging in the event of internet connectivity issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing new challenges to water treatment and wastewater infrastructure. Ensuring these facilities remain operational while also keeping the approximately 102,000 U.S. treatment plant workers safe is a daunting task. However, by further automating these facilities through the installation of remote monitoring software onsite operator involvement is minimized and downtime is prevented with real-time notifications.

Greg Jackson is CEO of Texas-based WIN- 911, a company that helps protect over 17,000 facilities by delivering critical machine alarms. He may be reached at greg.jackson@win911.com or 512- 326-1011.

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