Agreement aims to help water plants reduce energy usage, improve water quality

GE Intelligent Platforms collaborates with U.S. EPA for a system to increase the effectiveness of the municipal drinking water distribution network. Goal is delivery of better quality water while using 10% to 15% less energy.


A cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) and GE Intelligent Platforms is focusing on connecting dissimilar data sources to improve decision making capabilities across a water system. The software-based platform is expected to increase the effectiveness of a water distribution network, delivering better quality water while potentially using 10% to 15% less energy.

“The availability of safe, reliable drinking water has proven to be the foundation of sustainable economic and cultural growth in every society in history,” says Alan Hinchman, global industry manager for water/wastewater at GE Intelligent Platforms. “With this agreement, GE and the U.S. EPA will work with third parties to create a sensor-based, data-driven, and software-assisted system for drinking water distributions."

The goal, says Hinchman, would be to optimize water quality improvement and minimize energy usage. By doing so, the product could assist water utilities and other end users with "greener" distribution network operations and enhanced regulatory compliance. GE’s Proficy software and PACSystems controllers will be at the heart of the technology solution, which is expected to go into pilot testing in late 2010.

Goal: 'Greener' water

The U.S. EPA regulates drinking water quality under the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). That legislation resulted in continuing research in the areas of modeling, monitoring, and engineering control on water quality changes, network design and operations.

“The U.S. municipal water industry collectively consumes 4% of the total U.S. power generation,” says Thomas Speth, acting division director for NRMRL’s Water Supply and Water Resources Division in Cincinnati. “Therefore, one of the goals of this CRADA is to reduce energy consumption by 10% to 15%, which will have a positive impact on reducing green house gas emissions. Also since electrical generation is the largest water user in the U.S., the reduction in demand would help better manage water resources.”

Hinchman says today’s U.S. water system is running on aging, disparate technology and a crumbling infrastructure that experts predict is in need of $600B in replacements and repairs. “Since most utilities expanded and automated over a 30-year period while technology was rapidly advancing, many were left with a combination of different automation equipment creating an environment for information silos that make it impossible to share information with plant operators,” he says.

The project seeks to transfer past and ongoing R&D results, as well as intellectual properties of all of the parties, into real-world applications. These technological advances will be further developed and integrated with proprietary technologies from GE and PDA Design, a Greer, SC based green technology think tank and solution provider.

The technologies are related to sensor networking, wireless and wire-based multi-platform data communication protocols, real-time process equipment control, data warehousing and data mining technologies. Further integration and development by GE and PDA Design will be focused on energy reduction and water quality protections.

Predictive real-time energy and quality monitoring/control

Speth says it is the intent of this CRADA to develop a cost effective commercially viable solution for predictive real-time energy and quality monitoring/control platform in municipal drinking water distribution.

The solution will feature:

  • Open communication architectures featuring Ethernet networking for high availability and bandwidth to transfer large amounts of information or quickly stream small amount of data frequently.
  • Support of mixed systems for interconnection with existing equipment and to allow for stage deployment or upgrades.
  • Scalable deployment employing a building block method of interconnecting
  • Software and hardware products that offer their own value equation individually and large value collectively, will allow for faster market acceptance.
  • Sensible node cost to maximize the value of the technology and leverage numerous methods of data collection including simple data collectors and low cost instrumentation. Software calculation functionality will also allow for the approximation of missing data sources.
  • Dual purposing to ensure drinking water quality at a decrease cost. Energy savings and water quality are linked and must both be controlled and monitored per US EPA standards. To achieve this both energy and water quality are to be monitored and controlled.

For more information on the proposed solution, visit

Technical information and water-specific reference material, which can be used to develop advanced automation solutions, is available online from GE:

- Also read:

GE Energy standardizes on remote monitoring, diagnostics software

GE Fanuc adds new controller to its Proficy family

- Edited by Renee R. Bassett for Control Engineering,

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