The ideal situation for any water utility operator is to provide a service as close to perfect as possible. This means each customer has a similar usage experience, operating costs are controlled, and maintenance requirements are minimal. The key to realising this type of operation is to apply automation technology to system equipment such as pumping stations and valves, then provide a control platform that optimises all those resources.

The entire automation process is part of a wider market requirement for increased digitalisation, resulting in better control and efficiency. Practically, this means connecting equipment over an intelligent network that then allows the addition of a software layer which can coordinate all the automated equipment. Smart devices such as inverters and PLCs together with a set of sensors provide the data and feedback required for a detailed visualisation of an entire network or system, and the ability to affect precise real-time control.

Aquatoria® from Mitsubishi Electric is already providing exactly these operational advantages. Developed specifically to meet key challenges facing the water industry, it helps maintain optimum water quality while reducing the incidence of leaks by precisely controlling system pressure. It thereby improves operational efficiencies and delivers significant reductions in total cost of ownership for water utilities.

The software can be configured to identify inefficient equipment operation and can automatically optimise active pumping stations while controlling and managing pressure. This results in significant reductions in energy consumption. Harmonising pumping station operation with consumer demand means high peak pressures are avoided and less stress is transmitted through distribution equipment, resulting in fewer maintenance callouts.

Management and optimisation of the system is achieved using Artificial Intelligence (AI) functionality. The AI processing happens within the Adaptive Control module, which is one of six distinct software modules that make up Aquatoria®. Experience gained by application engineers shows that implementation of computational intelligence can produce better results when multiple variables are in play. A series of borehole pumps for example, feeding into one pipeline did not work well when controlled using fixed mathematical models, however harmonisation was achieved using fuzzy logic algorithms in Aquatoria® and delivered an average 15% energy saving.

Efficient management of the whole water distribution system is made possible when both water and process data flow concurrently to give a real-time picture. When it comes to optimisation of energy consumption, leak detection or asset management, a perfectly structured communication system between facilities and the control room is a key element for distributed control systems. Automated monitoring processes and reporting also relieves water utility staff from monotonous manual analysis tasks, freeing them to look at pro-active improvements.

Providing a structure for those improvements, Aquatoria® offers a software platform based on Mitsubishi Electric SCADA which provides the robustness of a proven industrial automation tool with the flexibility to accommodate different application set-ups. From an operator point of view, information is presented on clear graphical user interfaces (GUIs) as well as control room displays that can be modified easily to represent changes to the infrastructure. The Geo module for example offers an interactive map that shows the geographic location of each facility, this helps the user to manage and control the sites, but also makes it easy to add or change the information presented on the display.

In addition to the Geo module and the AI based Adaptive Control module, there are four other software modules that are part of Aquatoria®. These include a Configuration module for adding and amending assets, and a Pumping Selection module that allows for manual intervention of each pumping asset to balance duty, efficiency and service-life. There is also an Analytics module used for alarm setting and general monitoring, which works with an Infrastructure Diagnostics module which checks and backs-up control parameters.