Water utilities duties have been expanding in the last decades. Apart from providing clean drinking water and wastewater services, it has grown into resilience planning and acted as a conduit between water users and the water environment while coping with customers’ expectations.
Thankfully digitalization and the internet of things can help water utilities address these challenges and open new opportunities for the sector.
The whitepaper, “The Digital Water Utility of the Future, ” mentions digitalising water utilities’ benefits, opportunities, and barriers.
Progress requires understanding and embracing technological opportunities, a shift in leadership, and a workplace culture that adopts a digital mindset and new ways of working.
First, the digitalization of water utilities makes data and information become strategic assets. It differs from a traditional approach in a way that “analyses data at the business level rather than by service function”.
Digitalization improves the capacity to collate diverse data from infrastructure performance, environmental conditions, customers, and budgets and find meaningful patterns, creating a single source of truth.
The use and sharing of data and information harnessed through digitalization will create a new business value beyond traditional infrastructure management. It can also tailor and improve customer service hence enhancing customer relationships.
Second, digitalization will increase data accuracy collected in real-time, provide predictive analytics, use of AI in monitoring and responding to measurements can automate routine processes and increase safer inspection of assets.
Digitalization of utilities will allow utilities to integrate their business units, asset management strategies, and business processes to enable more efficient and high-quality customer service.
How quickly or slowly a utility adopts digitalization will depend on the political environment, private-sector competition, and economic and social pressures.
Third, when procuring digital technology, utilities need to be innovative and agile, but utility managers need not be distracted by new technologies rather, they should focus on how to solve the problem and seek digital solutions that are compatible with the digital maturity of the organization.
Lastly, digital security is a concern and could be a barrier to full digitalization.
According to the document, the key to managing cybersecurity is to understand which level of the digital architecture is impacted, how to isolate it, and how it will affect different parts of the business.
Cyber-attack on water utilities includes the intent to cut off water supplies, disrupt water treatment processes, disrupt sewer process to either flood houses or release harmful environmental discharges.
Thankfully there are existing measures, like encryption and firewalls, to protect systems against cyber-attacks and hacking.
In conclusion, digitalization of the water utility provides a new approach to managing, operating, and maintaining, water utilities.
It improves data collection, analysis, and integration to extract meaningful patterns, which becomes an organization’s asset.
The use and sharing of data and information creates new value for the business and can improve customers’ services and relationships.