ARC 2011: Market Focus - Water/Wastewater

Below is a report from Automation World's Publisher, Jim Chrzan, at the ARC 2011 World Industry Forum, Orlando, Fla.

If there is one market that keeps coming up in conversation after conversation with automation suppliers I meet at ARC, it is water/wastewater.  

There is the industrial side, getting water in and out of a plant for manufacturing purposes, and the municipal side, delivering fresh water to residents, and treating waste.

According to Tom Schaefer, Global Industry Solutions for Water/Wastewater, Rockwell, the municipal side is truly a continuous process, where “you never know what you are going to get, and you can’t stop treating, no matter what.”

Condition of water is constantly monitored, and chlorine needs to be added in just the right amounts to do the job, and not leave too strong a taste. Each system has multiple redundancies to insure safe supply.

Wastewater treatment is “pump intensive,” often employing big motors using lots of energy, so any automation supplier with a focus on energy monitoring and savings (most we met today) is exploring growing this market segment.

Mountainous or hilly communities where gravity can do much of the job have an advantage, but flat areas (like Orlando where we are attending the ARC) may have multiple remote pumping locations to keep pressure up—not so much for your showering comfort, but to insure enough gravity fed water for fighting fires in case of power outage.  

In past years, crews with pick-up trucks would drive from location to location visually checking on conditions of pumps, remote sensing and reporting are now at work here.  

Security is also a growing issue in protecting the nation’s water supply and automation is playing a part here as well.  One source told me some computer hacking from foreign countries has taken place where pumps have been turned on and off at a treatment facility, for instance.    

One interesting note about municipalities, they differ from commercial enterprises where successful implementation of automation is a closely held secret.  Municipalities are eager to share success stories with colleagues in other local towns or states across the country.


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