Report Nov 2018

Exploring the Social Layer of the Smart Water Journey

This report demonstrates how four, global utilities undergoing technology overhauls and infrastructure improvements prioritised customer and company needs during the process.

Abstract

This paper focuses on how four international utilities decided to embark on their smart water journeys, how they monitor implementation, and the challenges and benefits faced along the way. The four utilities: Bellevue Utilities (USA), Coliban Water (Australia), Bristol Water (UK), and Águas do Porto (Portugal) were selected based upon their known involvement in innovative company transformation and data management.  

Each utility was questioned about the role of people, processes, and policy in their company; collaboration with different stakeholders; ROI of smart water projects; financing smart water projects; and customer engagement. The utilities viewed innovation very differently, especially in implementing new technologies. The utilities viewed innovation very differently, especially in implementing new technologies. While for some adoption was merely a financial driver about finding the best solution whether it is “smart” or not, others embraced innovation and took a very progressive approach to integrating innovation into their company policy.

As a water utility that manages the entire urban water cycle, we must be open to all the innovative and smart solutions that are available, promote the experimentation of new solutions in the field, and support creativity in local new companies.

-Frederico Fernandes, Former CEO, Águas do Porto

The case study participants provided concrete strategies and suggestions for adopting smart water technologies.

Progress was often tied to number of accidents, in decreasing failures rather than increasing successes.

With existing assets approaching the end of their useful lives and the risk of occupational hazards, participants measured project success by reduced leakage and health and safety incidents. Customer satisfaction related to responsiveness, affordable, and accurate bills.

There was a clear need to integrate customer behaviour more fully to encourage improved water efficiency.

Participants developed a new billing system, automated customer portal, and feedback app, which could notify customers about consumption anomalies, planned maintenance, and conservation educational materials. These would act as a vital interface between company and client.

Collaboration was key both internally and externally, putting people and processes at the center of projects.

A common theme was bridging silos within the company so different operations could work more harmoniously together rather than as different entities. Also, sharing experiences with fellow regional utilities and looking to outside public and private sectors for inspiration.

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