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Public Health prioritized with online water quality contamination warning system

Philadelphia Water Department

Philadelphia, PA

To sustain clean, high quality drinking water to 1.6M customers, Philadelphia Water wanted to ensure affordable, customer-oriented service delivery & enhance regional watersheds. A Water Security initiative integrated multiple data sources from 5 major surveillance programs into one contamination warning system.

Topics Covered

Water Supply & Drought
Water Quality
Customer Service
Process Improvement


Initial: 258 Thousand USD

O&M: 27.5 Thousand USD


General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2013

Problem Addressed

The Philadelphia Water Department wanted one centralized platform to manage all of the department's responsibilities efficiently.

The water utility was managing multiple information streams.

To more efficiently operate and provide excellent customer service, Philadelphia Water Dept. determined that it needed one centralized platform to surveil 5 major components:

1. online water quality monitoring

2. consumer complaint surveillance

3. sampling and analysis

4. enhanced security monitoring

5. public health surveillance

The central event management dashboard would help utility staff to (a) determine if a water contamination event has occurred and (b) facilitate appropriate response and consequence management actions.

PWD's online system automatically performs event detection and preliminary cross-component data analysis. It also displays the event on a map for quick response and coordination among additional stakeholders, including Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) and other agencies.

Solutions Used

Through the adoption of a new water monitoring platform, PWD can perform its work more efficiently and can better serve customers.

Water Information System by KISTERS (WISKI) securely stores sensor data and yet allows authorized PWD users to easily retrieve data.

Access is controlled through user administration roles and rights; audit trails allow the utility's system administrators to review network threats to the water supply.

At the time, KISTERS collaborated with CH2M Hill (which has since been acquired by Jacobs) to develop the CWS dashboard utilized by operators.

Water quality assurance begins with monitoring and protecting source water, which also controls costs associated with water treatment. At 2-minute intervals, PWD needs to acquire WQ sensor measurement & sensor state data, the latter for calibration & maintenance.



Automated & manual analyses ensure rigorous validation & calculations conform to client & industry rules. Only qualified data are used for downstream decisions; suspect data are excluded.


Staff focus on operating functions as WISKI automates data processing of 3200 parameters every 2 mins from SCADA; alerts empower efficient & successful problem-solving and troubleshooting.


Alarms are generated, sent via SMS/text or email, and terminated based on sensor states & WQ thresholds defined by PWD. Notifications escalate to designated personnel and working groups.


Automation generation of standard & user-configured reports with quantitative & qualitative data facilitate timely distribution to key decision-makers, saving time during critical events.


The central WQ data system seamlessly connects with 3rd-party apps, promoting the unified goal of component working groups and the overall warning system achieves 99.9% availability.

Lessons Learned


Prior to using WISKI, PWD was challenged by other IT solutions that claimed to be able to manage the volume of data & extensive data management required for this water security initiative.


An additional 24 timeseries per imported value are required to support continuous data demand; >76K timeseries are run every 2 mins! In-depth knowledge of data sources & workflow is key.

Something Unique

All sensors provide operational & communication status as time series. O&M can be enhanced, so device quality and water quality values together can contribute to overall data quality and strengthen confidence in event alarming, decisions and planning.

Who Should Consider

Water utilities that serve populations of about 100,000 or more and continuously monitor drinking source water or outfalls

Last Updated

Mar 25th, 2022
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