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Water leaders chart the digital transformation journey for utilities

  • Water leaders chart the digital transformation journey for utilities
  • IWA and Xylem launch Chinese translation of the White Paper as a stepping stone to embedding digital in the core of water profession at the 2019 Nanjing Water Summit.

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The International Water Association is the network of water professionals striving for a world in which water is wisely, sustainably and equitably managed.


The International Water Association (IWA) and the global water technology company Xylem launched the Chinese translation of the publication “Digital Water: Industry Leaders Chart the Transformation Journey at the 2019 Nanjing Water Summit. The white paper is acting as a catalyst for innovation, knowledge and best practice.

The white paper lays the foundation for IWA’s Digital Water Programme. It provides an overview of the current state of digital in the water sector, the value potential for digital solutions, and the lessons learned from those on the digital journey.

By harnessing insights from 40 utilities in their digital water journey, the paper serves as a critical tool for water decision makers and for all those interested in advancing global water security and sustainability. Among the findings of the report is that while the transformation towards digital is not always easy for utilities, with aging infrastructure, inadequate investment, changing climate and demographics, digital water is now seen not as an ‘option’ but as an ‘imperative.’

The Digital Water report is a powerful step towards advancing global, regional and local water security and sustainability. “Translating this report into important languages such as Chinese strengthen its importance and call for action,” says Tao Li, Director of IWA Greater China Office. “Nearly all utilities interviewed for the report have already started to dive into the digital journey; from big data solutions to advanced management of the distribution network to digital customer engagement programmes. Outlining the Digital Water Adoption Curve, which is a synthesised view of how utilities are adopting digital technologies, will support Chinese utilities to chart their progress on the digital transformation journey.”

Tao Li, Director of IWA Greater China Office, announcing the launch of the Chinese version of the report ‘Digital Water – Industry Leaders Chart the Transformation Journey’.

“To effectively manage those infrastructures, providing high quality water services to customers, while maintaining affordability, the water sector in China must leverage digital solutions. The IWA and Xylem report will support utilities towards accelerating deployment of these needed solutions”, says LU Shuping, President of Xylem China and North Asia.

Digitalisation is certainly a way to more efficient water and wastewater management. Yet, there is urgent need for Chinese water utilities to address digital assets”, says Junwei Jin, Deputy Director, Network Department Shenzhen Water. “Big cities with increasingly growing population are calling for improved management of drinking water networks, by the inclusion of quality monitoring sensors, IT, IOT, and the integration of data to increase proactive monitoring of the network. The experience from more than 40 utilities around the world are very interesting and helpful as we are looking for reference.” Mr. Junwei Jin continues that “moreover, the report identifies barriers for digitalisation and proposes the digital water adoption curve, which is very useful to water utilities to make walk their digital journey.”

Dragan Savic, Chief Executive Officer, KWR Water Research Institute, Netherland; Biju George, Executive Vice President, DC Water, USA; Shuming Liu, Vice Dean, Professor, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, China; Cecilia Wennberg, Vice President, Urban Water, DHI, Sweden; Randolf Webb, Director, Strategy & Marketing-Europe, Xylem, Switzerland; Katharine Cross, IWA Strategic Programmes Manager; and Junwei Jin, Deputy Director, Network Department Shenzhen Water, China.

The translation of the white paper will facilitate Chinese stakeholders to engage more actively in the digital water dialogue, and to provide a starting point to transform digital innovations into practice. “IWA works with its members to prepare and disseminate translations that avoid language becoming a barrier. This helps engaging water professionals across cultures, regions and continents,” says Tao Li, Director IWA China.

Key take-aways from the report include:

  1. Build a holistic digital roadmap and a clear business strategy: Utilities must create internal consensus on how the digital journey will unfold, maintain the customer and business outcomes as focal points throughout the digitalisation process, and educate key stakeholders (consumers, politicians, shareholders, management and employees).
  2. Create an innovation culture: Utility operators, IT staff, finance, technicians, executives, and others have to be the scouts for identifying new technologies. However, to drive adoption, utilities must focus on fostering an organisation-wide curiosity and competency for embracing digital innovation.
  3. Leverage pilots for an agile mindset: Pilot projects offer a means to explore new technologies, build momentum, and create a more holistic understanding of their physical and financial effects on operations before committing to large-scale implementation.
  4. Develop architecture for optimising data use: Developing a data warehouse, where operational data sets become available to functions such as finance, engineering and IT specialists who can use the data to optimise business processes, is critical to creating value from data and effectively digitalising utility infrastructure and connectivity.

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