Digital water project activity in the U.S. is showing signs of a turnaround by increasing 11% from Q2 to Q3 2020. The uptick stems partly from more favorable market conditions, including the lifting of strict pandemic lockdown measures and the quick adoption of remote workforce strategies which have benefitted the sector, according to recent market analysis from Bluefield Research.
Bluefield’s quarterly insight, Digital Water: Key Trends, Project Activity, and Market Outlook, highlights 51 U.S. project announcements for digital water in Q3 2020. This is in stark contrast to data from the first half of the year, during which project activity declined 28% from Q1 to Q2. Along with positive signals from market activity, digital applications in the water sector represent an industry bright spot that is only expected to attract greater investment moving forward.
“We anticipate the impact of the pandemic to continue changing the way water utilities do business, and which water projects are being prioritized and funded,” says Eric Bindler, Research Director for Bluefield’s Digital Water Insight service.
“In 2020 and accelerated by COVID, we saw the focus of digital projects shift away from capital intensive and high-touch projects, like smart metering, toward more software-based solutions such as cybersecurity, workforce management, and data analytics,” says Bindler.
Exhibit: U.S. Digital Water Projects by Technology, 2016 to Q3 2020. Source: Bluefield Research
The resulting impacts from this disruption, which could extend for years in the municipal water sector, are emerging across the vendor landscape. Traditional hardware and equipment vendors are taking notice of these rapid shifts and making strategic moves to adjust their market positions, accordingly.
Badger Meter recently acquired water quality monitoring firms s::can and Analytical Technology, Inc., both of which nudge the company into pipe network management and beyond its core business of metering and customer management. At the same time, 120Water, Kando, GoAigua, and Suez are leveraging existing data analytics capabilities to track the spread of COVID, and other constituents in wastewater.
In just over a decade, the municipal water sector has had to withstand two significant economic disruptions that are forcing an operational rethink of utility plans to address infrastructure, water quality, workforce management, as well as climate-related impacts. As such, Bluefield expects more proactive utilities and stakeholders to leverage this opportunity to become more resilient and better positioned for the next, unforeseeable event.
“We were already focused on digital as a key segment to watch in water, and it has become even more relevant in the pandemic’s wake. While COVID-19 was obviously an unexpected development, in the end, it could accelerate the adoption of digital technology faster than any internal change management programs could have,” added Bindler.