With a few clicks of a button, a Padre Dam Operator can remotely activate a pump in Crest, add water to a reservoir in Alpine or adjust chlorine levels at a District site in El Cajon. This constant ability to monitor and control Padre Dam's drinking water is thanks to a program called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (or SCADA for short), a system that is developed, written, implemented and maintained by Kyle James, Padre Dam's SCADA Technician.
Years ago, District Operators drove to pump stations, reservoirs, pressure reducing stations and other infrastructure to collect data and run the water and waste water systems. Now Operators can constantly monitor, gather data and control processes from a secure District computer at any location with an internet connection.
As the manager of the software and wireless network for Padre Dam's complex SCADA system, Kyle is an expert at writing logic, network configuration, and electrical design and implementation. He also has a deep understanding of hydraulics, which is the study of how water moves through pipes and machinery. Keeping the software secure and working without a hitch is a huge responsibility that is vital to the community's well-being. Even so, Kyle would not want to be doing anything else.
"We've all had days when we didn't want to get up and go to work, but I can honestly say that doesn't happen to me in this job," Kyle said. "There's always a new challenge, there's always something different and it never gets old. It's very rare that people can find that."
When the Operation team brings an idea for a way to change a system to be more efficient by utilizing the SCADA system, Kyle can develop a completely new system customization. After District electricians have built the new mechanisms, Kyle can program them to function in a way that saves the District valuable staff time.
In addition to the everyday efficiencies of the SCADA system, it is crucial in emergencies. In cases of fires, Operators can quickly pump water to raise water levels in reservoirs. This helps to ensure that when a firefighter hooks up to a hydrant in Padre Dam's system, the water will continue to flow at the pressure they need to fight the flames. SCADA also acts as an alert system. An Operator is on-call 24/7, every day of the year to receive system alerts that report any issues potentially facing District infrastructure.
Kyle is a Marine Corps active duty veteran that continues to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve as the Operations Chief for the Marine Corps Installations West Reserve component. When he is not working, he enjoys spending family time with his wife and two daughters, riding motocross, and physical training.