Ward Neesen on the WaterVision 2.0 Remote Monitoring System for Pump Stations

WaterVision can be used on multiple devices.

WaterVision 2.0 is a completely reimagined cloud-based monitoring system based on the well-established WaterVision system launched by Watertronics in 2009. WaterVision 2.0’s expanded capabilities allow users to monitor and control their pump networks from any web-enabled device. In this interview, Irrigation Leader talks with Ward Neesen, the chief technology officer at Watertronics, about the benefits of the new technology.

Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.

Ward Neesen: I collaborated with the group at Watertronics when I worked for Lindsay. I worked on Lindsay’s FieldNET team and managed a lot of the software development, product releases, and other parts of FieldNET’s telemetry platform. I left to work for an agribusiness in Wisconsin, and when that company was sold, I had to figure out what I wanted to do next. I was reintroduced to Watertronics President

Rick Reinders. He told me that Watertronics was looking to do more with telemetry and that with my background and skill set, I would fit well in his organization. I joined the company in 2021 as its chief technology officer.

Irrigation Leader: Please introduce Watertronics.

Ward Neesen: Watertronics has been designing pumping solutions for golf, landscape, municipal, and agricultural use for more than 30 years. We offer a full line of pump station products from single-pump, self-enclosed landscape pumping systems to highly complex, large-capacity systems for water districts, resorts, and farming operations. We build uniquely tailored solutions for our customers.

Irrigation Leader: What is WaterVision 2.0?

Ward Neesen: WaterVision 2.0 represents our newest advancement in cloud telemetry technology. The underlying principle of WaterVision 2.0 is to provide our clients with real-time insights into their pump station operations along with certain control capabilities. It introduces an additional feature known as rules-based control, which enables the pump station to operate and respond based on predefined parameters. WaterVision 2.0 has similarities to a SCADA system but is uniquely positioned in the cloud, allowing for greater flexibility. The technology we have developed allows efficient data management by moving and storing only relevant information. WaterVision 2.0 enables our clients to monitor nearly all pump station operations, exert control where necessary, and receive alerts in case issues arise. Moreover, it allows pump stations to operate semiautonomously by making certain decisions based on the provided parameters. We have thus established a strong foundation in the industry with our platform, setting the stage for limitless future advancements.

Irrigation Leader: To use the software, does a customer need to have some sort of existing metering system?

Ward Neesen: Yes. This product will monitor the pump station if there is a metering solution in the pumps. Most pump stations do have that hardware. The software works not just with Watertronics pump stations but with many different kinds of pump stations, and more are coming online every day.

Irrigation Leader: What kind of data does the system collect and analyze, and what kind of results does it provide?

Ward Neesen: It does a couple of things. One is what I like to call the go-to-your-kid’s-baseball-game feature. Customers sometimes feel they need to constantly monitor the system when they’re pumping water, just in case something goes awry. With our system, they don’t need to do that. We have a full alerting system that will notify the user if certain situations come up. That’s a huge selling point. The second highlight is the dashboard design. In addition to showing pressure and flow, it can be adapted to visualize other things, like temperature and input flow.

Irrigation Leader: You mentioned that the system can be set up to automatically control the pump station. What functions can it control, and why is that an advantage?

Ward Neesen: Say, for example, we want to pump water out of a pond on a hill, and there’s a pond at the bottom of the hill that’s filling the pond further up. The person pumping would have to drive back and forth, turning things on and off, to get the levels right. Using our
technology, we can program the system to automatically fill the pond when its water level gets too low. You can do all that with one set of controls. We can get more complex from there. Home automation has really taken off in the last decade with the Internet of Things allowing services like Google and Alexa to turn lights on and off when you get home. We like the fact that we’re like an industrial Internet of Things, making connections between various pieces of equipment. That gives us the flexibility to continue to integrate with new systems in order to meet our customers’ needs.

Irrigation Leader: What kind of users are the target audience for this product?

WaterVision can be used to monitor and control equipment across a delivery system.

Ward Neesen: What’s great about WaterVision 2.0 is that customers can manage most of their pump station operations right from their computer or smartphone. This service is particularly beneficial for anyone who uses a pump station. It’s user-friendly for even the most basic user who just needs to switch the pump station on or off. It also caters to users with more complex requirements, such as generating reports for external agencies or for internal purposes. Everything they need is conveniently available in our cloud- based product, enabling them to keep track of their system’s operations. In short, our service can cater to any user across the entire range of pump station operations.

Irrigation Leader: In what ways are the agricultural applications of this technology different from other uses?

Ward Neesen: I came from the agriculture world, so I know that these days the amount of reporting involved in agriculture is unbelievable. People spent a lot of time preparing reports on individual pumps and wells. But with a properly implemented system, much of that end-of-week, end-of-month, and end-of-period reporting to various agencies can be fully automated. The other benefit for agricultural users is that our unique technology allows users to adjust flow levels to optimize the output of irrigation devices such as pivots based on what the pump stations are doing.

Irrigation Leader: How did your background with Lindsay and the ag market influence the design of this product?

Ward Neesen: The product was in the design phase when I got here. I brought it across the finish line and added a whole bunch of features. At Lindsay, I did a lot of work on the finished user interface, making the mobile app work better. I brought those talents here to make sure we put the right amount of polish on what we’re doing.

Irrigation Leader: What does the installation and startup process look like for a customer who purchases WaterVision 2.0?

Ward Neesen: Starting late last year, all the pump stations that we ship out now come with WaterVision 2.0 installed and configured. Access to our cloud platform for the first few years is included in the price of the pump station. We have also developed a bolt-on device with a couple of wires that allows us to attach WaterVision 2.0 to existing Watertronics pump stations and some other pump stations.

Irrigation Leader: What results should users expect to see?

Ward Neesen: One of the hallmarks that we talked about today is not so much about delivering the right amount of water, but delivering the right amount of water the most efficiently. I told you we could monitor numerous data points using a Watertronics pump station, one of which is energy usage. We can monitor energy usage and energy time, and WaterVision 2.0 can then work to optimize the energy usage or the dollar per acre-foot of water you’re putting down, potentially leading to savings. The other thing that we’re working on is the ability to do predictive maintenance: We want the stations running WaterVision 2.0 to be able to alert you when things start to go a little bit sideways. The goal is to allow you to go out and check the station or order some service work before the situation becomes critical. These features can lead to savings in energy costs and hopefully prevent downtime caused by unscheduled maintenance.

Irrigation Leader: Are you targeting users of a specific size?

Ward Neesen: No matter whether you’re a small or a large user, having a system that alerts you, enables automated report generation, and offers remote management capabilities can be hugely beneficial. For larger users—those managing multiple pump stations—we provide an expanded dashboard. Many of these features are designed to adapt and scale according to the user’s needs, making them useful across all user levels.

Irrigation Leader: What kind of customer service does Watertronics provide to users of this product?

Ward Neesen: Watertronics is unique in having an entire division dedicated to keeping our pump stations running. Customers make one call to our Pump Services Network and can get right to the people who can help them.

Irrigation Leader: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Ward Neesen: We think that WaterVision 2.0 is the best telemetry product in the industry, and we’re just getting started! We see this becoming the most integrable and integrated tool on all platforms. It’s been a great product so far, and we can only see it getting better from here.

Irrigation Leader: If anybody reading this thinks this might be a good product for their system, how should they get in touch with you?

Ward Neesen: They can e-mail me at ward.neesen@watertronics.com or reach out to our sales group at sales@watertronics.com.