Water and data combine to propel a US$20 billion forecast for smart water

Though traditionally slow to accept new technologies, the United States (US) municipal water sector stands at the brink of change with more than US$20 billion of projected spending on data, software, and analytics solutions over the coming decade. According to a new report Bluefield Research released, US Smart Water: Defining the Opportunity, Competitive Landscape, and Market Outlook, over 40 organisations are now positioning themselves to employ cutting-edge solutions in order to make way for more advanced levels of system intelligence, customer management, energy efficiency, and real-time network visibility.

There are a number of driving forces behind this rising interest in what is commonly known as smart water, including aging infrastructure, water loss, and increasing pressure on water utilities to be more efficient.

“Historically, utilities have been hobbled by their inability to generate actionable insights from disparate network and water usage data, but this is changing with more advanced data management and cloud-based solutions,” Senior Analyst at Bluefield Research, Will Maize, explained. “Early adopting utilities, including American Water and East Bay Municipal Water District, are leading the shift towards smart water technology adoption.”

In the short-term, the majority share of projected expenditures – hovering around 82 per cent from 2017 to 2026 – will be due to advanced water meters such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and automatic meter reading (AMR). A combined group of established players in the water metering sector are expanding current product and service portfolios to leverage on the valuable data gathered through their installed hardware. Mueller and Itron, renowned market leaders, have shifted into analytics, communications, and data management, while Xylem and Honeywell who moved into the industry through strategic acquisitions will have a hand in further reshaping the competitive landscape.

 

US smart water projections

Simultaneously, more than US$2.7 billion will be invested in asset condition assessment and pipeline monitoring from 2017 through to 2026. According to Bluefield Research, operating expenses on managing leakages alone will come up to a total of US$1 billion during the ten year period.

“While smart meters garnered the most attention, asset intelligence and visibility into real-time network conditions offer significant benefits,” Maize continued. “Water companies can now go from being reactive to proactive.”

An external group of venture-backed start-ups, looking to leverage on their data expertise gained from other industry applications, have jumped on the blooming demand for solutions. These specialised companies are exploring ways to combine disparate sources of data in order to generate insights for asset performance management, optimise water networks, and track water quality. The main challenge, however, is to bridge the credibility gap with demonstrated pilot projects and buy-in from municipal utilities. At the same time, a small group of companies from the more matured smart water markets in Europe and Israel are also beginning to make advancements in the US market.

 

US smart water value chain

Making headway in the 50,000 US municipal water systems is not easy for businesses, especially the newcomers who arrive without proven track records, and the challenge is further exacerbated by back office operations, billing and revenues, as well as network operations, that they must learn to navigate quickly.

“The market is already beginning to take on a different shape. We are seeing larger, diversified companies enter the fray, utilities reshaping their mindset, and Silicon Valley-types applying data expertise. This combination has huge potential to change the way the US water industry works,” Maize concluded. “If you looked at the smart water market a few years ago, there were just a handful of players.”

 

Source: Bluefield Research

 

All images are credited to Bluefield Research.