System-wide SCADA Migration Brings Greater Capabilities and Lower Costs

9 min video  /  4 minute read

Project Scope

  • 9,800 OPC tags
  • 50,000 memory tags
  • 5,200 historical tags
  • 82 main screens, 21 pop-ups
  • 20 clients
  • 1,000 alarms
  • Redundant Ignition Architecture
  • 4 MySQL databases

Project Overview

Brown Engineers performed a system-wide SCADA migration to Ignition for Central Arkansas Water (CAW), which delivers water to about 400,000 residents in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and the surrounding area.



CAW’s 22-year-old SCADA system was increasingly obsolete, costly, frustrating to use and difficult to maintain. It lacked data management between treatment plants. In 2016, CAW was still using its original 1995 SCADA, updating it when necessary. The result wasn’t flexible, integrated, or database-friendly. Installation and development were slow. Its proprietary nature demanded otherwise unnecessary, utility-wide PC and/or hardware upgrades every few years. Expensive license fees were charged per tag, client, and connection.

At CAW, two treatment plants and a distribution system with over 50 remote sites provide data to operators and maintenance staff. Over the past 22 years, layers of additions and upgrades from vendors, integrators and utility staff made CAW’s SCADA a bloated, confusing system that was hard to use, maintain or manage.

Historical data was collected in multiple locations and had to be synchronized between multiple servers.  This process was initially done in Windows with custom drivers and later migrated to the PLC level. This created a large amount of data traffic between the two treatment plants to maintain the real-time and historical data needed by operations at both treatment plants. A better way to easily manage all aspects including data collection, system control, graphical interfaces, database management and reporting of the SCADA system was needed.



Brown Engineers replaced CAW’s obsolete, clunky and expensive SCADA system with a secure, future-proofed, Ignition-based system that has two master control points and allows full use of all operational data collected. For easy in-house maintenance, it uses Java and SQL database technologies, both well known by CAW’s in-house IT personnel. Ignition 7.9 exceeded expectations with its unlimited licensing model, rapid development tools, security features, expandability, and technical support options.

CAW chose Ignition because it’s flexible, modular, database-centric, and easily connects with any database. It provides true real-time analytics. It is made for rapid installation and development. It’s platform-independent, with server-based licensing that delivers previously unimagined performance and versatility for a fraction of what CAW had been paying to license and maintain its old SCADA.

Ignition provides tools to handle multiple gateway projects. Each of the two treatment plants at CAW has a Redundant Gateway configuration with Remote Realtime and Historical tag providers. The ability to send real-time and historical data to both plants using this feature and the Historical Tag Splitter enabled Brown to simplify the configuration required to provide all data points to all clients at either plant. The Enterprise Management tool allows CAW admin staff to manage all projects, licensing, and system backups from one server.



The implementation of Ignition using High Performance HMI practices has improved readability of all operator screens and provided CAW with a set of graphical and tag standards moving forward.  Training of new personnel will be easier and require less time because of the use of these high-performance tools. Security level access for analog signal adjustments for supervisors and maintenance staff allow easier access to calibration and alarm setpoints. Equipment can be placed Out of Service with the click of a button, instead of having to manually modify graphic screens and tags. Ignition’s web server technology will save CAW staff countless hours in reduced maintenance time as compared to the old way of having to manually copy screen updates to all the PCs in its SCADA system.

CAW also enjoys these features with the new Ignition SCADA HMI:

  • Both water treatment plants now have their own Redundant Gateway servers
  • Each WTP and Distribution has its own groups of alarms
  • All screens are available to both plants, all the time, eliminating the old, custom drivers
  • SCADA data is bi-directionally shared by both plants
  • Distribution data can be sourced from one plant only, or both
  • Historical trends are visible to any user without having to know which plant is sourcing the data
  • Multiple monitor support for quad monitor workstations
  • Store & Forward mechanisms to maintain data reliability and integrity on connectivity loss

As CAW’s system grows, the ability to add new sites is much easier to maintain. The unlimited licensing model will not require additional costs, the UDT and graphic templates used will provide maintainable standards so all new sites look and behave like the existing ones, the Enterprise Administration Module will allow any new gateways to provide Remote Realtime and Historical data to all gateways in the system, and training and maintenance of the system becomes easier and more manageable for CAW.

CAW is now looking at migrating legacy historical data in Ignition. This data will help CAW provide better information for water quality studies and other long-term projects.

Project Information

Created By:   Brown Engineers

Automation is not a sideline for Brown Engineers, but a core specialization. Brown’s award-winning automation team creates simple, highly adaptable, easily expanded automation that helps government and private institutions, utilities, and heavy industry increase efficiency, productivity, and security. Brown Engineers is a certified Premier Integrator for Inductive Automation, as well as a Charter Solutions Provider for Bedrock Automation.


Project For:   Central Arkansas Water

Central Arkansas Water (CAW) is a metropolitan water system serving approximately 400,000 in Little Rock and surrounding communities. The utility is committed to providing customers the best water service possible at a fair price, through the careful development and management of its treatment, pumping, storage, and distribution systems. CAW also vigilantly protects the public potable water supply from the possibility of contamination or pollution from backflow or cross-connection into the system.

Posted on September 1, 2017