CANARY: Free software helps protect water suppliesCANARY allows water utility operators to quickly detect changes in water quality and make immediate mitigation decisions to address the problem
By Doug Page
The scale, diversity and complexity of the nation's potable water systems render them susceptible to accidental or intentional contamination. Detecting contamination in drinking water reservoirs rapidly and accurately is therefore critical for notifying customers of threats to public health and for making remediation and recovery decisions expediently.
Government scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have come up with a software package called CANARY that changes the water contamination pecking order. CANARY allows water utility operators to quickly detect changes in water quality and make immediate mitigation decisions to address the problem.
The software tells utility operators within minutes whether something is wrong with their water, giving them time to warn the public before contaminated water is distributed throughout the network. In addition to achieving homeland security goals, CANARY can enhance day-to-day water quality management by giving utility managers comprehensive real-time data about changes to their water supplies.
"CANARY is available free to water companies of all sizes worldwide striving to provide the best quality water to their customers," said Sandia researcher Sean McKenna.
CANARY runs on any computer, can be customized for individual water utilities, and works with existing sensors and software. It also works at lightning speed compared to weekly manual sampling, which is still how some utilities monitor their water, McKenna said. The open-source nature of CANARY allows all utilities access to state-of-the-art event-detection capabilities that can make the most of their existing investments in water-quality sensors.
"From the start of an event, when a contaminant reaches the first sensor, to an event alarm would be 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how the utility has CANARY configured," McKenna said.
In 2003, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 established a national policy for federal departments and agencies to identify and prioritize critical infrastructure for protection against terrorist attacks, specifically critical infrastructure "… whose exploitation or destruction by terrorists could cause catastrophic health effects or mass casualties comparable to those from the use of a weapon of mass destruction…"
McKenna said CANARY directly addresses this mandate by providing advanced techniques for the continuous monitoring of water quality within municipal distribution networks and real-time notification of adverse changes in water quality.