Largest Publicly Traded U.S. Water/Wastewater Company Benefits from Enterprise Solution

9 min video  /  12 minute read

Project Scope:

  • Tags: 50,000+ and growing
  • Screens: 100s and growing at the SCADA level
  • Clients: (5) load-balanced front-end servers to serve up 100s of Perspective sessions simultaneously at the enterprise level
  • Alarms: 10,000+ and growing at the SCADA level
  • Devices used: 100s of PLCs of many different types
  • Architectures used: Hub and Spoke/Scale Out Architecture
  • Databases used: (2) Microsoft SQL Server at the enterprise and growing at the SCADA level
  • Historical data logged: Millions of data points, and growing

Project Summary:

More organizations are bringing Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) together to assist in business decisions at every level of the organization. American Water teamed up with Flexware Innovation and Automated Controls Concepts (ACC) to create an Ignition ecosystem for SCADA/HMI standards, central data collection and analysis, and integration with other backend systems to support data-driven decision-making across the company. This project was the first and largest-scale standardization of their operational technology systems, and consisted of converting an outdated SCADA system to a modern system that is ISA 101-compliant. Ignition Perspective and Cirrus Link MQTT modules were included as key parts of this solution.


The first area that American Water wanted to improve was the lack of SCADA/HMI standards at each of their sites. American Water has hundreds of water and wastewater locations across the United States. These systems were on different platforms and utilized different types of colors and symbols to control the processes. The company needed a way to normalize safe and typical operating conditions so that when an abnormal event occurs, the operator has the pertinent information to help make the correct decisions. However, with different standards deployed at these plants, the end user would need to be familiar with all the different symbols and styles across the enterprise to be effective in each of these systems.

Another goal was creating a single portal to view key performance indicators from all of the plants. To attain Digital Transformation across the organization, there must be a standard way to get the data from the systems to a central location at the enterprise level. American Water had multiple different systems that contained data for its site or region, but there was no way to view that data without direct access. Even then, comparing data across systems became a difficult task. There was no central location to aggregate all the information needed for data-driven business decisions.

Finally, American Water faced the challenge of bringing in data from external systems such as an asset management system and Geographic Information System (GIS). American Water needed a platform that could not only pull operational data up to a central location but also bridge the gap to other organizational information systems. This would allow American Water to further take advantage of the operational data by providing more definition and context than it could provide on its own.


To solve each of these unique challenges, Flexware and ACC worked together to leverage their existing expertise with the Ignition platform and the water & wastewater industry to create a system that is robust and flexible for the whole enterprise.

Perspective was used to create a SCADA/HMI platform standard across all American Water sites. The standard was built around the ISA 101 High-Performance HMI practices to highlight abnormalities in the system and increase operator awareness. Styling, color standards, and theme guides were created to promote a common look and feel across processes, sites, and systems. This allows operators to easily understand new systems. In addition, a library of process objects was created to accelerate legacy systems as a jumpstart to their Ignition conversion and development process.

To create a central place to view the data, an enterprise portal was built. The enterprise portal organizes the data being pulled from the local systems and displays it in an intuitive way that is easily consumed by end users from multiple disciplines. This portal serves as the single place to aggregate and analyze the data. Tools have been developed to allow deeper analysis at any level of the business. The end user can compare cost savings and efficiencies across the sites to help drive informed decisions.

American Water also utilized Ignition’s vast integration capabilities to interface with other systems. Ignition is securely moving operational data from the SCADA implementations at the sites to the portal using Cirrus Link’s MQTT modules. Data is also being integrated from existing OSI PI servers using Ignition’s OPC COM DA Module to communicate directly with that infrastructure. Finally, Ignition is using REST API calls to communicate with American Water’s internal GIS system for asset information.


With limited training, the American Water staff resolved each of the problems mentioned above. Several SCADA conversions to Ignition have been executed, or are in flight, using the SCADA/HMI platform and standards developed. Data from new and existing deployments is being sent up to the enterprise portal and organized for consumption. Additionally, the integrations with the other systems have been put into place to give the operational data even more context and drive deeper analysis. American Water now has more efficient decision-making capabilities, and their process for adapting and making changes is seamless. The ability to run Ignition on anything that has a web browser helps save time, and provides them with adaptability and a lower cost to access SCADA.

This project is a work in progress. What has been achieved thus far will lay the groundwork for future integrations. As sites are converted and more data is available, the power of this system will continue to grow. Continued functionality is under development to create predictive analysis for when assets are being depleted, in-depth alarming at each level of the infrastructure, cost analysis for processes across systems, and more.


Reese: I am Reese Tyson, I'm a Team Lead here at Flexware Innovation. So here at Flexware Innovation, we are a systems integrator and we focus on projects all the way down from the shop floor all the way up to the top floor. We range in many different verticals across the manufacturing space. The solution that we have built for American Water is really an Ignition ecosystem that is comprised of three different parts. The first being an HMI/SCADA standards platform, the second being a central place to view all of the data across American Water, and the third being a integration layer with Ignition that allows us to pull in data from other systems and provide more context.

Ryan: I'm Ryan Love. I'm the Superintendent of Operations for Indiana American Water. American Water is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility in the United States. Indiana American Water is a regulated water and wastewater utility with approximately 320,000 customers and is a subsidiary of American Water. Our previous system was becoming hard to maintain and find support for. Moving to Ignition has opened up a world of possibilities from maintenance, support, and expansion. My background is in automation and controls. So knowing where we came from and where we are today with Ignition has made a world of difference. That said, we are about six months into this conversion project, and we are just scratching the surface on its capabilities.

Reese: The American Water project team consists of three main parts. The first being the American Water personnel, they provide a great IT infrastructure background. The second being Automated Control Concepts which is another systems integrator that we partnered with and they provide a great amount of understanding of the water/wastewater space. And the third being us here at Flexware with our vast Ignition experience on many different projects we've executed. The key parts of the solution really starts with the Ignition platform and its vast amount of devices and drivers that it has built into the platform. And then on top of that, we are able to utilize the Perspective Module which allows us to view screens on many different devices as well as the MQTT modules which allow us to bring up that data from the sites into that central enterprise.

Reese: MQTT is a really big part of this project because of three main points. The first one being, it's very lightweight and we can load it onto many different devices out in the field. Second being, it's very scalable. And the third is, well, Ignition has built-in MQTT modules that we are able to use, and so we're able just to take advantage of this right out of the box.

T.J.: I'm T.J. Holt, I was a SCADA Architect at Flexware Innovation for this project. The special challenges were converting from an outdated SCADA system to a more modern SCADA system that is ISA101 compliant. With Ignition's versatile components, we're able to create a process object library and a dynamic navigation structure using Ignition integration. The biggest strength of using Ignition is the ability to templatize the objects and to utilize the inheritance to keep those components and objects in a central location. The new screens allow the operators to see the key metrics for each of the processes within the area. In addition to using the ISA101 standard, they're able to efficiently react to critical alarms within each of the processes. The best feedback we've gotten from the operators is Ignition's ad hoc trending capabilities, the ability to save trends per user, and just the quickness of the system overall.

Rob: I'm Rob Raffaele, Senior Director of Enterprise Architecture and Operational Technology here at American Water. The Ignition project is important to American Water because this is the first and largest scale standardization of our operational technology systems. We plan to deliver consistency across all of our water and wastewater plants in a consolidated view for operations and IT alike. The new system results in more efficient decision-making and more access to data for people in operations, water quality, and engineering. We are fully in on the technologies that Ignition delivers, both Perspective and MQTT. We love the mobilization aspects of Perspective and the lightweight data transfer nature of MQTT.

Ryan: Switching to Ignition has impacted us in many ways. One of those is the ability to run Ignition on anything that has a web browser, this provides a lower cost to access through SCADA as well as adaptability into the future. Switching to Ignition is also saving time. Being called with an emergency situation in the middle of the night used to take upwards of 10 minutes to be able to remote in via laptop. Now, I can just pull my phone out and open up the web browser and be able to see the same data the operators see.

Rob: Ignition absolutely helps information and operational technologies work together with common platforms, common systems, and common tools. Now both sides of the house speak the same language. It's extremely valuable to have more access to operational data as now teams can self-serve where in the past, it was a very manual operation to get that into their hands.

Reese: So Ignition's flexibility allows us to do many different things. It allows us to scale out really well with the ability to add different types of servers, whether it's a front-end server, whether it's a back-end server, or whether it's a SCADA server that has both of those included. The scalability and the flexibility of that platform just allows us to do so many different things. So this is the American Water enterprise portal that we have created to view all of the data across American Water in one central location. On the left-hand side, you can see the American Water organization broken down into multiple states. If we drill in through the data model all the way down to the specific water treatment plant, we can drill all the way into every single piece of data that we wanna see on these different KPIs and these widgets. You'll notice it's being rendered as sparklines and bar charts as to what type of data that we wanted to see.

Reese: We can also view this information on a map as well. We can drill again through that data model all the way down to that water treatment plant that we were just looking at on the other screen and see where that information is and the system that it is inside of. 

Reese: Automated Control Concepts was a huge partner right from the get-go. They're able to bring invaluable information about the operational data and the day-to-day processes that the operators would go through. In addition, they're very heavily involved with data mapping and making sure the data that we're bringing up to the enterprise portal is valid and accurate.

Rob: This project has been going on for the better part of a year. And we would be remiss if we didn't mention our partners, Automated Control Concepts, ACC, and Flexware Innovation. Both of them have been key to helping us deliver the Ignition platform and continue to be key integrators and partners for our future of standardization.

Ryan: Ignition has been extremely easy to use. Being able to adapt and make changes is a seamless process now.

Reese: Ignition's unlimited license was a huge factor when deciding which platform to go with. American Water's ecosystem comprises hundreds of sites across the US and so as we scale out that cost-benefit really, it becomes a huge deal in the end.

T.J.: In the future, we would like to expand upon the tools that we've created. We currently have tools that can modify the SQL model and auto-generate tags. In the future, we're hoping to create a tool to auto-generate the view structure.

Rob: We fully expect Ignition to help with other opportunities in the future, both integrating some of our meter data and data into our data lake.

Project Information

Created By:   Flexware Innovation

Flexware Innovation is the go-to engineering firm for forward-thinking manufacturers that need to integrate their business and production systems to maximize their resources. Founded in 1996, our highly-skilled teams of dedicated professionals work side-by-side with customers to leverage technology to solve real business problems by providing best-in-class software development, automation engineering, manufacturing systems integration (MES, HMI/SCADA, & ERP), business intelligence solutions, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and specialized product development.


Project For:   American Water

American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company. American Water employs more than 6,400 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to an estimated 14 million people in 24 states. American Water serves residential homes and businesses through its regulated subsidiaries, as well as perform contract operations for military bases and municipalities that own their utility systems. The company develops and implements solutions to meet the country’s many water challenges.


Posted on October 18, 2022