Kauai Department of Water

Known as the Garden Island for its picturesque beauty, Kauai is a 550 square mile island whose geographic centerpiece, the mile-high Mount Waialeale, receives more rain than any other place on earth. The potable water system for the island, operated by the County of Kauai, Department of Water (KDOW), KDOW Logo includes a series of wells, intake shafts (a sump that naturally fills with water and is equipped with a pump), tunnels (free flowing ground water sources), and booster stations. The system consists of 85 remote sites, organized into 19 hydraulic “zones,” scattered throughout coastal regions, sugar cane fields, steep canyons and mountainous rainforest.

Before this project, KDOW maintenance crews spent much of their time driving from site to site, many of which are difficult to access, checking on the status of equipment and performing emergency maintenance. Level control for this far-flung system depended on start-stop control signals from tank level switches carried over leased copper telephone wires to pumps at remote locations. The most important tanks were equipped with level switches connected via leased lines to alarm panels at local fire stations. When one of these tanks overflowed or went dry, the firemen would receive an indication and call the County Dispatcher, who in turn would report the problem to the appropriate KDOW personnel. If the message was successfully relayed (which was not always the case), KDOW personnel would be dispatched to the remote site to fix the problem. However, for sites without these alarm systems, problems were identified during the periodic site visits or via customer complaints. Control of the system was problematic and resulted in tanks occasionally running dry or overflowing.

In 1999, the Kauai Department of Water acted on this long-standing need to improve the reliability and safety of water distribution on the island of Kauai by selecting Timberline Engineering to study their needs and then design a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system to meet those needs.

When this project started, the owner had very limited expectations. They recognized that they needed technology to improve the control of their system, but they had so little experience with technology, they were concerned that they could be creating a whole new set of problems. In the Project Kickoff Workshop, Timberline asked KDOW, “How will you measure the success for this project?” KDOW’s General Manager said that beyond the obvious goal of a system that performed the intended functions, on schedule and within budget, the system would only be a success if their operation staff fully accepted and used the system.

Timberline is happy to report that after six years of study, appropriation of funding, design, bidding, integration, construction, and acceptance testing, KDOW has embraced technology and has come to rely on the SCADA system. The system performs its intended functions of control, monitoring, and reporting better than they hoped and the operations staff that uses the system every day have embraced it and found that it makes them more effective with less effort. In the words of the General Manager, “We are very pleased…the overall process has exceeded our expectations!”

Timberline Engineering is involved in another project on Kauai and has kept in touch with the Department of Water. After six years of use, the system is still as good as new and fulfilling the Department's needs.