For many years now we have employed a water and sewer telemetry system that lets us monitor our remote locations spread out across the service area. About 2 ½ years ago, we added a “Display Wall” that features eight 55 inch monitors or screens.
The system price tag for this was around $150,000, but it was funded completely by a Rural Development Federal Grant from the USDA.
Why so many screens you may ask? Why such a big wall?
Well “The Wall” provides situational awareness for our dispatch personnel in the Operations Department, and it serves as a command center when there is an emergency event such as a large water leak or substantial flooding after a major rain event. The screens are generally set to show our water and sewer telemetry systems, our GIS mapping applications, and our real-time vehicle tracking system. The screens are configurable, however, and can also bring up the security cameras at our remote sites or pretty much any other piece of software or website that may be needed in an emergency. In non-emergency situations, it provides a single point of reference that all of our operations managers can refer to – thereby avoiding situations in which “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”
Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) layers we can pinpoint exact problems across our entire coverage area. Problems might occur with hydrants, water lines, valves, etc, and we can pinpoint the locations of all of them to within a meter. Further, all crews in the district travel with GPS equipped vehicles and the display system also tracks their location in real time. Thus, when a problem hits, we not only see it, but we also can dispatch the right team qualified to fix it and who is also closest to the scene.
Additionally, the system monitors sewer pumps at 80 different sites as well as monitoring nine wastewater plants.
There are many 24/7 tower and pump alarms in the district that can go off automatically, and the telemetry system is always monitoring them. Thanks to a secure VPN connection, a technician is always on call and can sometimes even fix problems communicated from the system remotely with a laptop.
We are proud of our system and the Display Wall- it shows how we use technology to optimize effectiveness, and don’t forget, it was paid for by a grant, without a penny of cost to customers!