Digital Water: Trends in Water Management

April 23, 2022


Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
octave water meter digital water

Over the past year a new term has emerged in the water industry: digital water, which includes everything from measuring water flow “in the wild” to wastewater management and, of course, metering water usage. The world has learned very quickly that online data gives real time solutions to all aspects of water management. Water innovator Will Sarni said in his 2019 report for the International Water Association, IWA, that “digital water is not seen as an option, but as an imperative.” [1]

The Underlying Technologies

Digital water is yet another manifestation of the digital transformation that is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives. The transformation starts with digitation, i.e., methods and technologies that convert analog field instrumentation and analog data into digital formats. Now the digitized data can be put to work to provide smart water solutions for cities, buildings and domestic homes. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the backbone across which water data flows both ways between the edge and control centers. [3]

Digital Water is Here

Water Industry 4.0: U.S. and Canada Digital Water Market Forecast, a new study by independent advisory firm Bluefield Research for the International Water Association, projects that between now and 2030 $92.6 billion will be invested in digital water, including hardware, software and technical support.

In reviewing the study, Eric Bindler, Research Director of IWA’s Digital Water program, says “By leveraging smart technologies, shifts in communication platforms like 5G, automation, and predictive analytics, cities and utilities should be better prepared to address costly water and wastewater infrastructure issues.” [2]

Below are the five key technologies expected to dominate the digital water investment arena. Bindler says that meters are expected to be the leading segment because they are the interface between the utility companies and the customers, providing critical data on the network infrastructure and customer habits.

Five Obstacles Preventing a Water Utility from Going Digital

It is generally acknowledged that smart water solutions can help mitigate the problems incurred by climate change and aging technology, while saving customers on average 11.6% annually on their water bill. In addition, digital water has helped utility companies lower their operating costs and save a tremendous amount of clean water.

Despite all these benefits, however there are still major barriers preventing many potential utilities from going digital. Global Water Intelligence has just published a white paper that cites the following obstacles to building a digital utility:

  • In environments with digital experience digital water flourishes. On the other hand, societies that lack digital experience in general, the transformation is very slow. Even when they do update their metering system, often the lack of experience and fear of change prevents them from utilizing the system to its fullest capabilities.


  • There is often a mismatch between what the customers want and what the vendors are selling. After much deliberation, a new customer to the digital water world will come with a list of requirements that they think are necessary for their system. However, for the vendor customizing a device is expensive and often impractical. Often if the two sides sit down and really listen to each other a solution can be found for everyone’s benefit.


  • It can be difficult to quantify the benefits of smart meters in order to justify the capital investment. For example, if a leak is discovered due to an alert about a sudden increase in water usage, there is no way of calculating how much water would have been wasted or how much damage might have occurred if the smart metering system was not in place.


  • The procurement process is another barrier to digitalizing the water system. Utilities do business by tender, but it is difficult for them to make apples-to-apples price comparisons across the different systems. In addition, compatibility of the new system with the customer’s present system is a major issue and should be more of a factor to the decision-makers than the price point. Unfortunately, the decision makers often look solely at the price, causing potential problems (and additional costs) during implementation. [4]

2020 Water Successes

  • The World Bank teamed up with Imagine H2O, a non-profit organization, to fund technologies that support global water sustainability. Many of the new businesses involve providing farmers in remote locations with real time digital information that was previously not available to them, including moisture levels in their fields and imminent weather conditions. The farmers also got mobile management platforms.
    Other innovative technologies supported by the World Bank and Imagine H2O include flood risk detection, DNA fingerprinting technology to discover the source of water pollutants, and wave powered autonomous desalination plants for small island communities. {5}
  • Last year showed major improvements in irrigation methods. For example, by switching to micro-sprinklers, the next generation of drip irrigation, farms and orchards along the Colorado River are finally resolving the chronic problem of salt and selenium runoff. The problem had been so bad that salt running off in Western Colorado affected the quality of water all the way south to Mexico. [6]
  • Private business initiatives play an important role in stabilizing and improving the world’s water situation. In 2020, two business giants, PepsiCo and Microsoft, initiated major programs to replenish 100% of the water used in the manufacturing of their products. [7]

Without a doubt 2020 has had profound effects on the world in every imaginable way and probably in some ways that we can’t yet imagine. The stress and fear that were the hallmarks of 2020 motivated the water sector to take all measures necessary to ensure access to clean water and proper wastewater treatment as its part in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many of these measures are proving to be trendsetters for 2021 and beyond.

Despite the successes of 2020, municipalities across the globe suffered heavily from loss of funds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the spirit of necessity being the mother of invention, these losses are driving the digitalization of the water sector. Digitalization is at the forefront of the battle to keep water costs and water waste to a minimum. Artificial intelligence-based systems leverage big data not only to tell you how much water has been used at which locations, but also to predict where and when water will be used in the immediate and more distant future.

In fact, a new project out of Duke University, the Internet of Water, is uniting communities in the United States into a national network of users, hubs and producers to share standardized water usage information and new technologies to create a modern water data infrastructure.  After considerable success in the US, the Internet of Water plans on going global in 2021. [8]

Other 2021 Trends of Note

The financial strain on local governments and municipalities has opened a new market for third-party contractors to take over water management and billing. This outsourcing arrangement allows local governments to lower their operational costs.

Even infrastructure is undergoing a makeover. Not just next year, but over the course of the next decade many steel and iron pipes will be replaced with different types of plastic pipes such as PE, HDPE and PVC. The US alone has over 2 million miles of pipes for drinking water and using these new materials that do not leak and are cheaper to repair and replace will save time, money and water. [9]

The Final Note

The past year has been a burden and a challenge for all business sectors in every corner of the world. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, many businesses, governments, as well as academia have accelerated the adoption of innovative digital technologies to ensure that our water sources will remain clean and not be a factor in the spread the pandemic.

Digitization has been and will continue to be the key trend in water management. It saves person-hours and water and, because of the mega-data collected, it ensures more accurate billing for water usage.

An interesting added value is that local governments are finding that digitalizing water management is an easy sell to the public. The technology jargon has appeal to the masses. Terms like “Smart Cities” give a feeling of pride to the local community. Citizens are pleased to know that their tax dollars are going to help sustain our natural resources and save money at the same time.

We at Arad are proud to be a part of the digital future, today.

Digital water is no longer the wave of the future – it is here now and it is here to stay. At Arad we have seen over and over again that the challenges and obstacles to digitalizing a water utility can be overcome when the stakeholders work together.

We are proud to be a part of the future, today.


[1] Will SarniDigital WaterJune 19, 2019

[2] Smart Water Magazine, Demand for data drives US $92 billion investment in digital water by 2030, January 8, 2020

[3] Craig Resnick, Key technology trends for 2020, February 6, 2020

[4] Aquatech, Five Barriers Preventing A Digital Water Utility, December 6, 2019

[5] Chloe Oliver Viola, The future of water: How innovations will advance sustainability and resilience worldwide, June 15, 2020

[6] Jodi Peterson, Farmers swap out irrigation methods to keep the Colorado River from growing saltier, January 5, 2021

[7] Brad Smith, Microsoft will replenish more water than it consumes by 2030, September 21, 2020

[8] Internet of Water, Internet of Water A Vision An Organization A Network, 2021

[9]Reese Tisdale, Forecast 2021, December 15, 2020


Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Skip to content