Trends in the World of Water Data Management – Some Findings from the World Water Tech North America Summit

Written by James Griffiths

This past month, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Ontario to attend the World Water Tech North America Summit. Like the many other water conferences that are put on year round, this summit proved to be a great place to meet like-minded professionals and to learn more about the trends in the world of water data management. I thought I’d share some of the findings that I learned there with you. 

On the first day, I was able to attend a forum called “Operation Transformation: Harnessing the Digital Revolution.” The panel included speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including municipal and technology executives. The resounding conclusion amongst all the speakers was that they are all currently battling data silos within their teams, departments, and utilities. To get groups of people to share and integrate their data will require shared goals and a great deal of cooperation, and that sort of thing doesn’t just happen overnight. And so, a “revolution” is required to unlock all of the siloed data and to begin integrating them amongst teams within organizations.

But what does this “revolution” really look like? As we continue to go down the path of big data, we are collecting huge volumes of data but are not always able to harness the full value of each data point. A change in the thought process across water organizations is required, and this in turn will disrupt the status quo. While this process doesn’t happen overnight, a sense of urgency is still required in order for this change to take place. A key first step is to start thinking about data management as asset management.

When we start to treat our data as assets, then it only makes sense for us to continuously think of better ways to manage them, thereby optimizing their derived value. Here are some starting points to think about when determining how you can modernize your own data management practices:

  • Clearly state your goal to your organization and get buy-in from all team members
  • Determine how you would like to leverage your data what are the most valuable aspects of your data? Ultimately, what would you like to see from your data?
  • How can you automate your processes around data collection, verification, and reporting? How can (and do) these disrupt your current processes?
  • How can you leverage a data management system to help you get more intelligent about the decisions you make? Is there artificial intelligence built into your system that will allow you to use predictive analytics or even prescriptive analytics?

While it is often seen as a number one priority to replace your aging infrastructure, it’s said that 30% of pipes ripped out of the ground still have 70% of life left in them. And so, before jumping into decisions, it’s best to “get smarter” first – and one way you can do this is by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to engage in predictive analytics. To get to that point, you need your un-siloed data to help you to understand how best to invest.

Like good pipes enabling the flow of water through the distribution system, make sure that your data management solution enables data flow across your entire organization – because, just like water, data are an asset and should be treated like a precious resource.