Whangarei District Council Water SCADA & Telemetry Upgrade

SCADA, Telemetry and Control System upgrade 2019-2021

McKay was engaged by the Whangarei District Council (WDC) to provide an upgrade strategy for their Water Services control systems.

The upgrade entailed a complete replacement of SCADA, PLCs, RTUs and communication network for 7 treatment plants and more than 70 outstations. Working closely together, McKay and WDC developed a list of key requirements for the project. Combining this list of requirements with extensive knowledge of industry standards and best practices, McKay was able to achieve the following outcomes for WDC:

  • A highly scalable software platform which, through its object orientation, reduces development time, increases the overall quality and makes the system easier to maintain
  • Improved process awareness for operators through an intuitive and consistent user interface, leading to faster and more informed decision making
  • Situationally aware design draws attention to the consequential details, facilitating more effective interactions for operators
  • Better stability and speed of wide area networks, enabling real time control and monitoring of remote stations
  • Enhanced data integrity through automatic backfilling of gaps and redundancy in persistent data storage, resulting in reliable compliance and maintenance reporting

Up to date hardware, providing compatibility with the most advanced software on the market and the latest cyber security solutions.

Summary of works:

An inventory was made of each of the existing installations. These included site inspections and interpreting the previous controls software and hardware configurations. All information was captured in a standardised format to assist decision making during the requirements capture process.

Discussions and workshops were conducted with WDC stakeholders to determine a list of key requirements. These discussions were held regularly throughout the whole project so that the list of requirements evolved over time to best meet WDC needs.

Control hardware and software were compared based on a large set of ranking criteria. Standard parts and software packages were selected for use in all future WDC water installations. All servers and networking equipment were replaced by a specialised IT provider with consultation from McKay. The combination of McKay’s control system and SCADA expertise with third party technical IT expertise resulted in an incredibly fast, robust, and scalable system.

A comprehensive set of control system standards were produced which included detailed guidelines on object models, programming conventions and user interface design. These standards were strictly adhered to throughout the project. For every site a detailed functional design was produced, encompassing all control and monitoring.

Using the new standards and functional designs as directives, the main controllers were programmed. For large plants these were Modicon M580 PLCs, and for outstations SCADAPack RTUs were used. Controllers were programmed with an object-oriented approach while following the S88 standard. This created very modular code, perfect for testing and future maintenance. The same philosophies were applied to the SCADA. Since the standards were designed to be hardware and software independent, the SCADA objects automatically became compatible with the field devices without further effort. This compatibility was proven when the standards were successfully adopted by a different client using Rockwell PLCs.

The SCADA user interface was based on a combination of the ‘Situational Awareness’ design philosophy and New Zealand industry best practices and conventions. The interface incorporated both a traditional P&ID (process and instrumentation diagram) style overview of the process, and a modern dashboard showing key performance metrics.

McKay supplied and installed new hardware for every site. During installation, wiring was tidied up, documented, and standardised by our team of expert electricians. Installation and commissioning were organised and planned, so that the downtime of each process was minimised. Even the largest plant had a turnaround of less than one week’s shut down for the whole changeover.

McKay continues to work with the Whangarei District Council under  a long term maintenance contract for all water electrical and control systems. Together, we strive towards a common goal of continuous improvement.



Want to hear more about our water and wastewater SCADA services? Find out more here. For more water and wastewater content, sign up to our water newsletter here.