‘Intelligent water’ could save U.S water utilities $17.6 billion, report says

According to a new report by Arcadis and Bluefield Research, intelligent water can address two of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. water utility sector today: affordability and resilience.

“The research indicates that only 21 percent of utilities feel they are fully able to cover costs of service,” said Eric Bindler, research director for digital water, Bluefield Research. “Meanwhile, it is possible that 36 percent of households won’t be able to afford water in the next five years. It’s clear that resilience and affordability are the biggest concerns facing utilities.”

Intelligent water can help utilities meet increasing spending needs and moderate rate changes, the report says.

Maintenance spending reached an all-time high of $50.2 billion above capital spent in 2017. The first step toward affordability is cost savings, and advanced asset management solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics could save utilities $17.6 billion through 2027.

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“Intelligent water helps experts make the right decisions at the right times by revealing data about people and their relationship with their water, and by shedding insights into the effects of changing economic, environmental, social and political conditions,” said James Cooper, intelligent water lead for Arcadis. “But in order to realize these benefits, the industry must be willing to challenge the status quo.”

The report, “Demystifying Intelligent Water: Creating a human-centric future with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics,” recommends utilities:

  • Assess their current position before building an Intelligent Water network
  • Implement advanced asset management solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics
  • Use the Internet of Things to enhance operations, livability and affordability
  • Embrace three tenets of fit-for-future utilities:
  1. Empower a culture of innovation to incorporate new ideas, solutions and opportunities
  2. Be driven by customer needs, not by technology
  3. Focus on collective intelligence, where skilled workers make data-driven decisions

“The collective intelligence of people and computers together is far greater than either is alone,” said Cooper. “The water sector is — and always will be — about people. If you work in the water sector and are empowered by today’s technology, you are ‘Intelligent Water.’”

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