Importance of Data in the Digital Transformation


The Importance of Data in the Digital Transformation of the Water Industry


When you talk about data and Digital Transformation of the Water Industry the first things that comes to most people’s minds is concepts such as “Big Data” and “Data Mining” in reality the importance of data to the water industry is so much more. To understand this importance you have to understand what data there is the water industry and how it is used.

Quite literally the water industry is awash with data of different sources that are collected for different reasons in different timescales. Operationally the water industry collects approximately 300 million pieces of data every day through telemetry systems, add to this data from assets which are consistently being replaced and on top of this customer consumption data and you can see there is lots of data, this is before the advent of smart meters which would add just under 230 billion pieces of data for the UK alone collecting hourly data

When it comes to the Digital Transformation of the Water Industry though we, as an industry, have to make sense of what this data actually means. We need to get value from the data that we collect and in order to do that we have to understand what data we have and what it means.


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Digitalisation of water utilities – drivers for transformation

on 5 June 2019 at 10am (Amsterdam time). Register here.


Looking at some of the different data types that are out there we can understand what we can do with it. For instance:

Probably one of the most valuable types of data in the water industry is the customer consumption data. From this we can understand how much water needs to be provided and at what time and control the water network in the most efficient way to make sure just enough water is available. On an individual basis it can show customer side leakage and be used for the gamification of water consumption. On a collective base it can be used to indicate district management areas which have unusually high consumption patterns or using as inputs into complex algorithms to indicate where non-revenue water is particularly high. Customer consumption data has no end of uses especially when smart water meters are used. Customer consumption data historically has been collected biannually and had little use over and above the simple use of the data for producing water bills but with more frequent data from smart water meters the value of this data increases by an order of magnitude.

The temporal nature of data is of particular importance as short-term data is vitally important for day to day operations where asset and long-term data is much more important for asset management. The uses of data are temporal in nature.

Looking at operational data is where there is a huge potential within the water industry and the fundamental value is in situational awareness. For those in water company operational control centres this situational awareness is vital in reacting to the situations that occur during normal day to day operations. Data can lie it can show a situation that isn’t necessary the true picture. Bringing the data together into information gives situational awareness that can warn of a risk to a customer or potential areas of inefficiency where optimisation of the processes can bring around savings for both the water company and of course the customer. The use of operational data is usually measured in terms of days or weeks or even less

Moving into the longer term we can look at asset data which informs asset performance in the medium term showing the maintenance periodicity for individual assets to the performance of the system and when investment into the physical layer is needed. The asset data of each individual assets is also needed to enable to formulate maintenance and replacement strategies. The list is literally endless.

One can argue that data is part of the normal day to day operation of the water industry however it is within the Digital Transformation of the industry that we can exploit the data is a much efficient manner to reap a huge value from the data that we collect.


Oliver Grievson is a steering committee member of the IWA Digital Water Programme, please join the conversation on IWA Connect.


Oliver Grievson

Oliver is a highly experienced water industry professional with particular skills in both process engineering and instrumentation. He started hiscareer in the laboratory after finishing his bachelors degree in London. After this he went into water &a... Read full biography