Digitalisation in water utilities survey
The great water challenges of our time, namely climate change, population growth and increasing urbanization, and ageing and overly stressed infrastructure, inflict significant pressure on water networks. The water industry, and in particular water utilities, needs to adapt to meet the emerging demands of a dynamic, highly deregulated and competitive environment within the context of a changing climate. In such an environment, water utilities need to continue to deliver essential services including safe and secure drinking water, stormwater management and wastewater management.
Addressing these ongoing and growing challenges requires a transformation to optimize its processes and operational efficiency. In fact, these challenges and their increasing complexity necessitate a paradigm shift to the next generation of water systems beyond traditional water and sewerage infrastructure. The development of new systems is against the background of cyber-physical systems, digitalization and big data where software, sensors, processors, communication and control technologies are increasingly integrated, to enable informed decisions in an increasingly changing, complex and uncertain world.
The paradigm shift for the water industry is to move towards (i) offering new services ranging from resource recovery to newer digital approaches as a consequence of integrating organizational siloes to offer a dynamic and sustainable real-time decision-making; (ii) considering a systems approach which recognizes the interconnectedness of water across sectors and how decision-making can improve benefit sharing and (iii) decentralisation or distributed systems to maximize resource recovery, deal with rapid growing cities, and dampen the propagation of failures.
To support these shifts in how water services are operated, water utilities will be expected to invest in appropriate measures, which include the digitalization of the way water is managed, distributed and regulated.
Water and wastewater utilities must embrace digital solutions. There is really no alternative.
“Digital water is already here” is the clear message after interviewing utility executives and leading experts from around the globe. From big data solutions to advanced management of the distribution network to digital customer engagement programs, nearly all utilities we talked to have begun the digital transformation journey. While the transformation is not always easy, with ageing infrastructure, inadequate investment, changing climate and demographics, digital water is now seen not as an ‘option’ but as an ‘imperative.’
This paper – largely based on interviews, surveys and inputs from nearly 50 utility executives and over 20 subject matter experts – examines how digitalisation is transforming the water sector through the experiences of water and wastewater utilities.
The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the current state of digital in the water sector, the value potential for digital solutions, and the lessons learned from those on the digital journey.
By creating a comprehensive body of knowledge from 40 utilities at various stages in their digital water journey, the paper can serve as a critical tool for water decision makers and for all those interested in advancing global water security and sustainability.
This report is produced in collaboration between the International Water Association and Xylem Inc.
Download the report here
The Digital Water Programme aims to act as a catalyst for innovation, knowledge and best practices around digitalization for the water industry, provide a platform to share experiences and promote leadership in transitioning to digital water solutions, and consolidate lessons to guide the natural evolution from the ‘business as usual’ to achieving a digital water utility.
The Programme is driven by end users (e.g. utilities, regulators) as well as solution providers (e.g. technology companies, software companies, researchers, academia) at the forefront of emerging technologies to solve urgent and costly operational problems to deliver water services.
The uptake and integration of digital water will shape resilient water utilities of the future who manage water wisely, sustainably and equitably.
The Digital Water Programme will provide a platform for water utilities to explore and share experience on their digital water journey. The Programme will provide roadmaps and guidance that will help water utilities in making the transition to the next generation of smart water systems and fulfil the need for improved resiliency to secure and sustainably manage water resources now and in the future.