Guest Column | March 16, 2023

WWEMA Window: The Importance Of Early Design System Integration

By Richard Ercolini


The water/wastewater industry is about to be hit, and in some cases already has been hit, with funding for projects through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Monies are starting to flow from the federal government into State Revolving Funds, or SRFs, to assist municipalities with upgrading an aging infrastructure. A lot of “wish list” projects are now being considered, some of which include updating an antiquated telemetry system, also known as SCADA (supervisory, control and data acquisition), and in other areas new systems are in the works. When deployed properly, SCADA systems can be a useful tool to not only gather information, but also to provide a means of preventative maintenance that can save the municipality money down the line by getting out in front of large expenditures due to component failure. SCADA is often thought of as a computer with some software and a few pictures, but that is not the case. Early design considerations by including a reputable system integrator should be seen as of equal importance to sizing a pump, the pipes in the system, civil considerations, etc. 

The involvement of a reputable system integrator in design stages as early as 30% will go a long way in saving money down the road during construction and implementation. Items like future expansion, what software to select, remote viewing and alarm notification, cybersecurity, and many others, can be discussed in workshops with the design engineer and/or the municipality to tailor the system around the owner’s needs. These early design workshops will help determine how many servers and/or workstations will be required, location of the equipment, software packages, number of tags plus space for future growth, communications media to remote telemetry units (RTUs) in-plant or off-site, alarm notification methods, remote viewing of the SCADA from thin clients, cybersecurity protections for the SCADA system as well as the RTUs, etc. This information will assist in creating the design for the overall system and will help provide accurate budgetary estimates for funding considerations. These workshops should be held throughout the design process to ensure changes in technology are implemented with the design, and the owner is in complete agreement with the system they will ultimately be getting during the construction of the project.

A reputable system integrator should hold certifications in multiple areas with several original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). These certifications should range from programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to communications (radio, fiber optic cabling, cellular, etc.) and on to SCADA, networking (firewalls, routers, network switches), and cybersecurity. These system integrators shall have the personnel, experience, and expertise to take part in the design workshops to help provide the owner and/or engineer with areas of consideration when designing a control system. The system integrators shall have installed SCADA systems in various areas throughout the country which will enable them to provide examples of projects that have been implemented with varying degrees of difficulty and design.

As monies from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law begin to flow into the industry, new SCADA systems and upgrades of existing systems will be commonplace. SCADA is a term that is thrown around without much thought to since it rests on a computer, and most people are used to turning on a computer and having it simply “work”. However, if not treated with extensive care and consideration during the design, SCADA will be under-utilized, under-appreciated, and in the long run will cost more money than originally budgeted for. By including a reputable system integrator in the early design process, the utilization of the system will be a key component of the discussion and design. Also, during the construction phase of the project, change orders will be limited since technology and design changes will have been brought into the fold during the entire design process.

SCADA is a wonderfully useful tool if implemented properly. For the implementation to be done to the owner’s satisfaction, including a reputable system integrator in the early design phase can go a long way in the success of the design, construction, and operation of the system.

Richard Ercolini is the Southeast Regional Manager for Tesco Controls and a member of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), a non-profit trade association that has been working for water and wastewater technology and service providers since 1908. WWEMA’s members supply the most sophisticated leading-edge technologies and services, offering solutions to every water-related environmental problem and need facing today’s society. For more information about WWEMA, visit