Phelan Piñon Hills SCADA/PLC/Telemetry Replacement Project (CA)

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Formed in 2008, Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District (PPHCSD) inherited facilities formerly managed by San Bernardino County including an aging controls and communication system. Faced with failing and unsupported controls, PPHCSD was locked out of its own source code—code urgently needed to manage water operations at 28 remote sites across 128 square miles of rugged terrain in the high desert of Victor Valley, California. SCADA, PLCs, and radio networks failed frequently. With components no longer available, repairs were impossible. Without visibility into true field conditions, the staff were forced to visit remote sites frequently to check status.

On the recommendation of neighboring agencies, PPHCSD retained TESCO in 2013 to reverse engineer their system, design, build, and support a centralized monitoring and control system using the fixed-price design-build approach. TESCO consulted with PPHCSD staff to identify critical operational objectives that could be achieved within their budget. Concurrently, PPHCSD joined a Southern California Edison (SCE) program that incentivizes users who accept power curtailments. To be eligible, PPHCSD needed to integrate an Automated Demand Response (ADR) gateway into their SCADA system.


With no documentation or system access, TESCO worked collaboratively with PPHCSD to conduct an extensive assessment of the existing control system, then used the findings to develop a fully-engineered specification incorporating previously uncontrolled equipment. To centralize monitoring and control, a new SCADA system, server, and historian were deployed. New systems reduced the need for staff to visit remote sites including: 11 wells, 35 reservoirs, 4 de-sanding tanks, 24 booster stations, 63 booster pumps, 32 pressure reducing stations, and 353 miles of pipeline. New process instrumentation and I/O interfaces were added for automating chemical treatment; and security monitoring was added for personnel, public safety, and assets. Antiquated serial communications telemetry systems were migrated to a high-speed, trunked Ethernet-radio backbone with repeaters at high points in the Piñon Hills. TESCO integrated Honeywell Smart Grid Solutions’ OpenADR Gateway (Automated Demand Response) to manage SCE curtailment requests and established load-shedding algorithms that prioritize water needs should a conflict arise.


The two-phase Phelan Piñon Hills SCADA/PLC/Telemetry Replacement Project began in 2013 and was completed in 2016. A collaborative design-build approach was key to meeting the District’s expectations for an improved control automation system that addressed operations, security measures, maintenance, sustainability, and system management – and came within their budget. Real cost savings were captured by reducing travel to remote sites and integrating the OpenADR Gateway with the SCADA system. The adoption of ADR funded most of the project through grants and incentives available by joining SCE’s power curtailment program.

Today, the high-speed communications backbone, centralized monitoring and control, real-time trending, and performance data capture relays critical information for use in reporting, analysis, and troubleshooting and helps PPHCSD proactively manage their water infrastructure to consistently deliver quality drinking water to customers.