South Tahoe Public Utility installs automation solution throughout service areas
South Tahoe Public Utility District is committed to safeguarding the pristine waters surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin.
South Tahoe Public Utility District is the largest water provider and the sole sewage treatment facility for South Tahoe, servicing 14,000 residential water connections, 660 commercial and government sites, and 17,000 sewers. The District uses SCADA software, in conjunction with Wonderware InTouch® software, to automate its processes for moving water and sewage through South Lake Tahoe. While these tools were capable of automating processes throughout the district, South Tahoe realized it needed an access control solution at its remote sites. “We did not have SCADA out at remote facilities before — this was a new venture for us,” said Chris Skelly, IT manager for South Tahoe.
Securing Remote Sites
For South Tahoe, security, specifically safeguarding facility assets, is a top priority. Passwords were included within South Tahoe’s SCADA-protected pumps and generators, including those at the Luther Pass Pump Station site. This facility exports all of the treated wastewater out of the Lake Tahoe Basin to the Harvey Place Reservoir on the District’s Diamond Valley Ranch property. The pump station regulates up to four million gallons of wastewater daily, all of which is controlled by the SCADA application. South Tahoe is held responsible for any effluent that touches the ground or escapes the system. Accordingly, securing the application that is ultimately responsible for controlling the flow of waste is of the utmost importance.
Through SCADA, the District had implemented a policy requiring that all system passwords contain at least 15 characters. However, remembering complex passwords and expecting administrators to track multiple passwords across resources presented its own challenges. It soon became clear that South Tahoe needed to simplify its procedures, yet compromising on the security of its facilities was not an option. Rather than requiring its crew to remember a second 15-character password just for the remote sites, South Tahoe opted for a smart key system.
South Tahoe Public Utility District is the largest water provider and the sole sewage treatment facility for South Tahoe.
Smart Access Control
South Tahoe installed CyberLock to secure remote SCADA applications that controlled the operation of pumps and generators. Mission critical software is secured with CyberKey smart keys rather than a password. The smart keys are programmed with scheduled access permissions, allowing access only during certain dates and times.
South Tahoe personnel are given an access schedule within their assigned CyberKey. During their shift, the smart key will open the SCADA application, allowing the operator to start or stop pumps and generators. However, outside of an assigned shift time, the smart key will deny access to the SCADA application, recording details of the unauthorized access attempt.
Now that access to critical facilities is protected, Chris Skelly explained, “We no longer worry about the SCADA application going unattended,” and added that there is no longer cause for concern if an unauthorized user attempts to access the application.
CyberKeys are programmed with scheduled access permissions, allowing access only during certain dates and times. Comprehensive audit trail data monitors the whereabouts of each key.
Another added benefit is that the CyberLock system can be hosted entirely by South Tahoe on its own servers. With sites located far from major urban centers, like Reno and Sacramento, South Tahoe does not always have access to a reliable Internet connection, meaning cloud- and web-based platforms are not practical. With this system, South Tahoe is even able to provide smart keys to other departments, such as natural gas, electric, and miscellaneous contractors. With the system’s comprehensive audit trail data, stored in both smart keys and locks, South Tahoe can monitor the whereabouts of each key.
Since adopting CyberLock over 10 years ago, the system has surpassed South Tahoe’s needs and expectations. With hundreds of locks, padlocks, and keys currently deployed, South Tahoe has continued to expand its CyberLock hardware and software, ensuring that the public can continue to enjoy drinking, swimming, and recreational activities in the pristine, beautiful waters surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Circle No. 235 on Reader Service Card