Brown and Caldwell is an employee-owned, full-service environmental engineering and construction firm with 52 offices and 1,700 professionals across North America and the Pacific. For more than 70 years, their creative solutions have helped municipalities, private industry, and government agencies successfully overcome the most challenging water and environmental obstacles. Using Digi Connect® Sensor+, the firm brings greater insights and innovation to water infrastructure.
A Smarter Infrastructure for Water
When it rains, it drains – and that’s when municipalities and companies alike can face significant environmental challenges. From treatment facilities to catch basins to conveyances, the infrastructure for storm water and wastewater management must address the surrounding environment to minimize flooding, contamination, and other negative consequences. The key to success is a rich set of real-time data.
Unfortunately, budget constraints and a shrinking workforce mean today’s water utilities face even greater challenges in efficiently collecting and understanding operational data for informed decisions on capital investments, customer service, and more. Traditionally, a city conducted 24-hour composite sampling once or twice annually at each permitted industry in the city, with each site having continuous pH and flow metering equipment.
According to John Abrera, National Integrated Digital Applications Leader for Brown and Caldwell, more is needed today. “While most cities collect their data on a fairly continuous basis, that data usually remains at each local site,” he said. “On a practical basis, that’s not very accessible to the city. Instead of real-time data, they typically receive monthly self-reported data. Those reports only show a basic snapshot of that day’s discharges or runoff – not the spikes in volume or changes in quality that can be problematic for the collection system or wastewater treatment facility.”
Data Is the Answer
When water districts and municipalities want tighter control, the answer lies in implementing sophisticated sensors – as well as the communications backbone to show that data in real time. For Brown and Caldwell, Digi Connect® Sensor+ provided a way to create a network for its sensors and transmit data in real time.
Digi Connect Sensor+ is a fully integrated, battery-powered cellular gateway with I/O for connecting to a wide range of external sensors. Digi Connect Sensor+ lets Brown and Caldwell add remote monitoring and diagnostics in places where power is not easily available – like catch basins. Its easy installation, reliability and low data usage make remote monitoring possible in areas where it was previously cost prohibitive. Digi Connect Sensor+ also leverages Digi Remote Manager® (Digi RM), enabling Brown and Caldwell’s customers to monitor large numbers of sensors across their water systems and easily show data in real time. Digi Remote Manager also plays a vital role in providing insights to ensure the equipment is functioning properly.
“We literally glue sensors to catch basins around the city to see how much water is going in — and how much is percolating through the green infrastructure,” said Abrera. “In other places — like factories and other corporate sites — we can get data on everything from pH, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), and total suspended solids (TSS) to chemical oxygen demand (COD) and nutrient compounds. Using Digi Connect Sensor+, this data gets transmitted through a cellular network to a cloud-based server for visualization in near real time.”
Keep It Clean
“Our customers’ operational teams need reliable, timely data,” Abrera explained, “because they use this information to determine if the flow and volume of water has had an impact on the water system. This helps them comply with laws and regulations governing wastewater discharge and ensure cleaner water and lower costs.”
Abrera noted the components are not power-hungry, which helps prevent high data usage costs while also supporting long battery life. “If it’s not raining, we don’t need frequent updates, of course. But when it’s raining, we might ask for updates every one to five minutes. In our experience so far, customers get nine or 10 months of usage before they need to replace a battery.”
In a typical implementation with dozens of sampling sites, inexpensive sensors can be installed in remote locations to quickly understand what’s happening further upstream without relying on inspectors or manual reporting. A map-based dashboard can display sensor data and discharge parameters and issue alerts and notifications when thresholds are violated. City staff can easily monitor what is being discharged into the sewer in real time. To potentially avoid over or under treatment and to protect the integrity of their assets, this real-time data gives the city the ability to quickly adjust plant operations while ensuring proper billing and compliance.
“Digi Connect Sensor+ is a terrific product that lets us deploy any kind of sensor we want,” said Abrera. “We can blend a variety of sensors into the same rugged enclosure and see all the data we need in real time. With Digi, we can measure whatever we need.”