Victorville Water District Deploys Firetide Wireless Mesh Network for Reliable SCADA Communications

Victorville Water District has selected Firetide's HotPort wireless mesh network as a key element of its SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) monitoring system upgrade. The HotPort was chosen because it provides the high reliability inherent in a mesh architecture, plus ease of installation. Another critical element to Victorville Water District's decision process was Firetide's commitment to providing high quality products in addition to excellent technical support services.

Victorville's Firetide network provides communications to 15 sites; current expansion plans are to add an additional 45 sites. The sites include various wells, booster pump stations, storage tanks and treatment plants which are now connected to the network. Throughput to these remote sites ranges from a low of 7 Mbps to over 200 Mbps, which provides the Water District with a foundation that will support future plans which includes installation of video security cameras at some of the more critical sites, and integration with their water Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system.

Jeff Zizzi, SCADA & Telemetry Coordinator for the Victorville Water District, was assigned to lead the SCADA upgrade project which included identifying a new communications network. "We were tasked to find a wireless network that could provide a complete solution from network design and planning, to implementation, training, and maintenance support," stated Zizzi. "Firetide was able to meet all of these requirements and has exceeded performance expectations."

Key challenges experienced by the previous network which the Water District sought to overcome were related to reliability and performance. With a single point of failure, the point-to-point solution was susceptible to failures during power outages; it often experienced radio frequency interference from neighboring sites; and during bad weather, accessibility was poor. In addition, performance was only 256 Kbps which meant that polling times were measured in minutes rather than seconds. Together, these issues could result in communication problems taking up to 8 hours to resolve because of having to address problems at multiple remote locations. The result could be higher time of use costs for power to remotely control tank over- or under-filling; or the loss of important historical data. The Water District wanted to ensure SCADA devices could operate independently if central communications and control failed for any reason.

The SCADA upgrade project team considered and evaluated several types of wireless network technologies including: multi-repeater systems, peer-to-peer store-and-forward systems, and mesh. They determined a mesh topology provided the high reliability which met their requirements based on its inherent ability to seamlessly reroute around failures and adjust to radio frequency interferences. In addition, they wanted a system that could achieve a minimum throughput of 1.5 Mbps and one which the Water District could easily install and maintain.

Sage Designs Inc., which specializes in the sale of open-architecture telemetry and SCADA systems, recommended Firetide's HotPort wireless mesh network to the Water District. After careful consideration of multiple proposals, the Sage Designs proposal was selected. Firetide was the only mesh vendor that met and exceeded the Water District's requirements for high reliability and throughput; ease of installation; and ability to provide quality technical assistance and training.

"The Victorville Water District serves over a hundred thousand people, fulfilling a basic need in the community. By upgrading their communications infrastructures with Firetide, they have a strong foundation to leverage for many future applications," said Bo Larsson, CEO of Firetide.

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