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Eastern Heights Utilities: Rural Water Company Makes Technological Leap with New SCADA

Posted By Brian Price, PMP on February 21, 2024

For Eastern Heights Utilities, it’s been business as usual for more than 50 years. Based in rural Greene County, Indiana and serving more than 7,000 connections across six counties, this water utility system contains 12 elevated storage tanks, three wellfields, four booster stations and more than 500 miles of water mains in the distribution system. The utility employs 14 staff who reside within the Greene County limits with the average employee having worked at EHU for more than 20 years; a tight knit team, to say the least! EHU employees work seamlessly together to tackle difficult issues within their system as evident by the hundreds of pictures on the walls of these teammates banding together to fix main breaks, digging holes to find leaks or demonstrating how much ice cream can be piled on top of a waffle cone. They are colleagues, teammates… family.

Through the years, EHU general managers started each day by checking the system parameters on a single supervisory controls and data acquisition (SCADA) computer and monitor. Using simple trending screens and a few color-coded graphics, GMs had just enough information to deduce how the system ran overnight and could infer how the day would go, given the system parameters displayed on the basic monitor. Throughout the day, operators would frequently check tank levels and pump running conditions, then head back to perform their daily activities. Often, when an operator in the field needed system information, he would need to radio or call the office and have someone there check the screens and provide information over the phone; standard operating procedure since the system was installed in 1984.

This system, powered by Aquatrol remote telemetry units (RTUs) and ran by a Steeplechase graphics and alarming package, stood the test of time and performed through harsh winters and demanding summers. But as technology advanced and parts for their system became more obsolete, the EHU team needed a solution that would allow them to bring in a modern system while maintaining the legacy of their time-tested system. EHU staff considered many different options for replacement and selected a solution that implemented Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform. The Ignition system, paired with Allen Bradley field hardware and a modernized telemetry system, allowed the EHU team to bring their system into the 21st Century – and to do it in a big way. 

According to General Manager Chris Wilson, his team partnered with the Wessler team to find a solution that would work seamlessly with not only EHU’s water system, but for the EHU staff as well. “They listened to our wants, needs and recommendations to design it in a way that is very user-friendly and not at all overwhelming, foreign or confusing to our operators. If we do have any questions, they are a phone call or night,” Wilson said.

Heavily involved in the conversion of the old system to the new modern one, EHU operators provided input on the “way things used to be” so the new system would still have a familiar look and feel when the conversion was completed. The SCADA upgrade provided additional benefits that weren’t originally planned: EHU personnel learned the details of the telemetry system, asked challenging questions and learned the root causes of some of the nuisance failures they had been battling for years, paving the way for the staff to understand the inner workings of the new SCADA system. End result? They have a better understanding of how the system communicates and executes operations across the distribution system.

“Wessler staff handled the transition so smoothly, we basically had no issues, down equipment or lost communication which was quite the relief as we fully expected to have some sleepless nights!" Wilson shared.

The EHU team requested the new system graphics be reflective of the old system so operators could be familiar with operating the system from day one. Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform was a great fit for this request, allowing the screens to be developed with the old-school flair, but leveraging modern technology that assisted EHU staff in understanding the system in more detail, allowing for quicker troubleshooting and viewing system parameters and historical data like never before.

Well and booster station pumps can now be alternated on a time basis, chemical feed pumps can operate on wells they were never able to operate with before, data became clearer and potential system issues became apparent within the first week of the new system running. EHU’s big technology investment was starting to pay off. In addition, now data was available at operators’ fingertips. Field conditions can be diagnosed at the site of the issue. Alarm notifications can be scheduled in advance and the list of benefits the new SCADA system offers Eastern Heights goes on and on.

One of the biggest benefits of the migration has yet to be realized. Future growth, expansion or modification is now simplified by setting the foundation of standardized equipment and graphics for new infrastructure. Adding additional sites and expanding the current system infrastructure will be simpler, faster and less expensive because of Ignition’s unlimited client feature. Adding clients to the existing system was covered by the original purchase of the system and eliminates software expenses for future upgrades. For Eastern Heights, Ignition allows them to purchase the hardware, install the app and start running the new equipment.

In many ways, the EHU team has closed the chapter on an old, archaic system and opened a new chapter that utilizes modern technology to lead them into the future. The foresight, planning and diligence of EHU general managers’ new SCADA system selection will pay dividends for years to come.

Want to learn more about Eastern Heights Utilities and their adventures in SCADA migration? Contact General Manager Chris Wilson at