Water Management Research

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Water Management Macro Trends (2)

Some macro trends in the water industry include increasing decentralization of water management in megacities, use of blockchain for secure and transparent asset transactions, growth of chatbots and AI for better customer servicing, government incentives for micro-hydropower projects, and growth of green bonds for developing sustainable and environmentally friendly water management techniques. The details about the macro trends in the water industry are presented below and in the attached spreadsheet.

Megacities & Mega Regions

  • According to a recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), about 70% of the global population will be residing in cities by 2050. Additionally, more than 90% of the urbanization growth will be driven by emerging markets of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • By 2030, it is projected that over one billion people will be residing in about 100 very large cities. All the megacities will be plagued by similar water management issues, i.e., mismanagement of wastewater, drinking water, storm water, recycled water, among others.


Virtual Agents and Chatbots

  • According to IDC, about 45% of utility companies have invested in AI analytics. A chatbot is a form of AI technology that can converse with customers through an online messaging platform.
  • Customer service has become imperative for success in today's world. In 2017, about 5.5 million customers in the UK switched their utility services provider due to service dissatisfaction.
  • Chatbots use machine learning to enable them to become smarter with human interactions. It is equipped to scrap vast amounts of data, enabling quicker query resolution for customers round the clock (24x7).

Selling micro-generated energy

Green bonds

  • In 2019, the progressive issuance of green bonds surpassed $200 billion, registering an increase of nearly $30 billion over 2018. Further, it is noted that just 9% of the total green bond issuance were related to water.
  • Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) introduced green bonds for water infrastructure in 2016. The first phase directed over $1.8 billion to develop climate-smart water infrastructure.
  • Phase two investments will be directed for nature-based and hybrid water infrastructure projects, like water systems for wetlands, watersheds, forests, and agricultural systems.
  • Green bonds are often oversubscribed, as the average green bond sold in the US is three times oversubscribed.
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Water Management Micro Trends (3)

The three micro trends for data in water management include big data technology, cloud computing, and open data. The requested details surrounding the identified trends have been entered into rows 30-32, columns C and D of the attached spreadsheet.



Big Data Technology

  • The utility sector is using big data to generate insights, which can lead to strategic initiatives and better decisions. The technology comprises several software tools like Apache Spark and Hadoop, which are used to gather, analyze, organize, manage, and deliver both structured and unstructured data.
  • GreenTech Media highlighted that due to the influx of big data, smart grid potential has shifted dramatically towards a re-invented strategy in the way that utilities conduct their operations. The Co-Founder and President of GTM Research, Rick Thompson, noted that the utility industry is currently moving into a market with data analytics software that will allow "utilities to track, visualize, and predict everything from grid operations to electricity consumption."
  • According to Deloitte, many utilities are starting to explore how to integrate big data and analytics into their decision-making process. Early adopters of such approaches have managed to improve the efficiency of their operations, adequately plan their activities, and develop their asset maintenance programs. Water World added that big data and its data science applications are crucial as they help to create a new set of information that can help increase optimization and reliability as well as manage existing assets for customer relationships and the supply chain.
  • Big data analytics tools can help in enhancing demand prediction capabilities, which in turn greatly influence investment planning and water quality infrastructure. Although water utilities are already utilizing the data they have to create models for future demand, water players should enhance such models by increasing variety and volumes of forecast data.
  • Water utilities can also use better monitoring analytics tools to analyze anomalies in water metering, which can improve cash flows among water players. Different players will be able to understand why a certain amount of water delivered has not been billed.
  • The 2018 Water Report published by Black & Veatch found that the survey respondents who are using big data for water management increased to 28% from 10% in 2017. The report noted that big data could help water utilities to deploy advanced sensors that can record undetectable changes in the performance of water infrastructure.

Cloud Computing

  • Cloud platforms can provide essential unlimited number of storage, servers, and other needed infrastructure to manage water utilities. Through the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) software, a variety of ‘micro-services’ can be created and integrated into the management process. Furthermore, the review highlighted that the cloud enables water utilities to aggregate data quickly from various sources to enhance analytical outcomes.
  • In the water industry, service providers can adopt the Data-as-a-Service (DaaS), a component of cloud computing, to oversee the service, operations, and maintenance of various technologies such as the water quality sensor. DaaS can also help wastewater companies to detect industrial pollution, water quality incidents, and sewage overflows.

Open Data


Research Strategy

In providing the research brief above, we consulted two 2017 sources, which are beyond Wonder's two-year standard timeframe. However, we only used the reports to provide further insights into more recent data. Also, as the research was for trends that typically span over some time, we anticipated that some data might only be available in sources published during or at the start of the trend.

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Water Management Micro Trends (2)

Micro trends for sensors in water management include technology integration, wireless sensor networks, and compact water quality sensors. This spreadsheet and the research brief below provide further details.


  • Water quality sensors are being adopted in water management as a response to the increasing levels of water contamination and limited access to safe water. As such, more industries are being forced to reuse and recycle the wastewater that they generate. These industrial operators are adopting the use of water quality sensors to provide early detection of any changes in the composition of water.
  • "Vendors are now coming up with advanced water quality sensors such as graphene-based sensors and small, lightweight water quality sensors to gain a competitive edge. Such advanced sensors facilitate easy monitoring of water quality in remote locations. The manufacturing of these sensors will have a positive impact on the overall market growth."
  • Also, climate change and the risks associated with natural disasters are driving the demand for sensors in the water management industry.
  • In 2015, the World Economic Forum ranked water crises as number one in its 2015 assessment of global risks.
  • "Remote sensing and on-the-ground technologies," combined with the increasing adoption of geospatial analysis, are helping to improve the global water sector's ability to account for and monitor water supply and fluxes on a large spatial scale, as well as increasing the speed of water data collection.
  • With the emergence of in-situ technologies such as high-resolution water quality sensors, the agricultural sector is better equipped to "secure more crop-per-drop."



  • The integration of level sensors with other water management technologies in part of what is the smart water system has taken water management research to another level.
  • Extreme weather events such as flash floods are becoming more unpredictable due to climate change. As such, affected towns and danger zones face the risk of being overrun if there is no way to detect rising water levels. However, by integrating level sensors with pressure transmitters and an IoT solution, emergency services, and the appropriate channels can be alerted when there is flooding or such water disasters within a short time.
  • KELLER's GSM-2 device incorporates an autonomous data logger and a remote transmitter to send water levels and pressure information to the appropriate channels. When this device is used with a level sensor, it transmits the necessary information via email, SMS, or FTP.
  • "Effective country-driven climate change adaptation should reflect the importance of water management in reducing vulnerability and building climate resilience." As such, integrating sensors with other water management technologies help to ensure efficient weather forecasting and hydrological monitoring under climate change by providing the necessary data and evidence that will be needed at each level of management to ensure sound water management.
  • "The US National Weather Service (NWS), for example, uses a GSM-2 solution with accurate level sensors, a remote transmitter, and a special type of software adapted to its needs."


  • "Agriculture heavily impacts freshwater resources, as the sector consumes and pollutes nearly 70% of the global freshwater reserves."
  • Currently, wireless sensor networks that combine multiple sensor types are being used to integrate water management in agriculture through real-time data monitoring.
  • The use of wireless systems has increased in popularity. As such, sensor vendors are producing small, lightweight sensors equipped with wireless communication features.
  • According to a senior research analyst at Technavio, “vendors are improving technologies to enable the sensors to provide concurrent measurements of water quality. Water quality sensors allow the meters to record multiple readings simultaneously for different parameters. This will further foster the adoption of water quality sensors across different end-user industries in the forthcoming years.”
  • Sensor devices used for quality management systems have evolved over the years from "traditional lab-based sensors, such as potentiometric, conductometric, mass spectrometry, ion-sensitive electrodes, and amperometric sensors, to in-situ sensors capable of real-time measurement of water quality parameters on-site, such as biosensors, fiber optic sensors, lab-on-a-chip sensors, electromagnetic wave sensors, fluorescence detection, and infrared (IR) sensors."
  • Wireless sensor networks enable the measurement of pH, salinity, temperatures, and nutrients at the same time.
  • They can also be used to measure water parameters in-situ, process, and transmit the measurements.


  • There is an increasing need in the industrial sector for water quality sensors around the globe as water use and recycling is being adopted to tackle the water crisis due to water scarcity and rising energy costs.
  • "Water quality and wastewater monitoring are fundamental tools in the management of freshwater resources, and they provide essential information characterizing the physical, chemical and/or biological status of water resources, determining trends and changes over time, and identifying emerging water quality issues. They also provide the means to identify policies and measures to enhance water quality and wastewater, reduce and control water pollution from specific sources, evaluate the efficacy of pollution control and regulation policies, and their implementation and deal with water quality emergencies."
  • As such, compact water quality sensors are being used near distribution lines due to the "rising changes in water quality during transportation and distribution." An example of a compact quality sensor includes residual chlorine sensors that assess free chlorine, monochloramine, and the total chlorine levels in drinking water and treated wastewater.
  • With the development of nanotechnology in semiconductors, compact graphene-based sensing platforms are also more readily available.
  • Compact graphene-based sensors aid the "real-time detection of contaminants including heavy metals, nitrates, bacteria, and phosphates. These sensors are also increasingly being developed to monitor water quality in water distribution systems."


In providing the research brief above, we consulted two 2017 sources, which are beyond Wonder's two-year standard timeframe. However, we only used these reports to provide further insights into more recent data. Also, as the research was for trends that typically span over some time, we anticipated that some data might only be available in sources published during or at the start of the trend.
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Water Management Micro Trends (1)

The requested details surrounding the identified micro trends for the IoT macro trend in the water industry have been entered into rows 22-24, columns C and D of the attached spreadsheet. The three micro trends are remote metering solutions (smart metering), cyber-physical systems (CPS), and IoT wireless smart valve.

Remote Metering Solutions (Smart Metering)

  • Rapid urbanization has led to an increase in water consumption. It is therefore very important to use available water resources more efficiently.
  • Reports showed that about $2.5 billion is spent annually in the detection and repair of water leaks. The implementation of IoT in managing water systems could result in savings of $7.1 billion to $12.5 billion every year.
  • With smart metering IoT solutions, companies can provide new and improved services to citizens, like communications about challenges, detecting unusual consumption, and offering recommendations for efficient consumption.
  • Remote metering can also be used to achieve improved smart network management, quick detection of leaks, improved energy efficiency, and efficient management of the integrated water cycle.

Cyber-Physical System (CPS)

  • “Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are complex systems with organic integration and in-depth collaboration of computation, communications, and control (3C) technology.”
  • With IoT-enhanced CPS technology, it is expected that there will be a transformation in the management of interconnected systems between computational capabilities and physical assets.
  • CPS can be used to ensure the health, sustainability, and productivity of watersheds.
  • Through CPS, intelligent and robust control systems can be used to monitor and optimize water usage and the physical environment in an urban agriculture facility. CPS can also be used for real-time simulation of water catchment changes caused by topographical changes.

IoT Wireless Smart Valve

  • It is very challenging to control thousands of valves across a large area or a utility network.
  • Controlling water flow in a commercial network involves dispatching service personnel to release water every time it is needed and this makes a utility company incur significant cost.
  • The IoT smart valve is an IoT controller that gives seamless, complete control of the water flow in a pipe network to the user. Utility companies can use the smart valve to turn off a main water supply line when a leak has been detected.

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Water Management Macro Trends (1)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent robots are some key trends that are growing rapidly in the water management industry. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be at least 1.3 million robots as a service (RaaS) installations generating a total revenue of approximately $34 billion. Full details regarding the identified macro trends in the water industry may be found in rows 4-20, columns C and D of the attached spreadsheet. The macro trends analyzed are intelligent robots, circular economy, extreme weather/climatic shifts, improved membrane technologies, wastewater byproducts, and wastewater recycling.

Intelligent Robots

  • According to Forbes, robots as a service (RaaS) is growing rapidly in the utility sector. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be at least 1.3 million installations generating a total revenue of an estimated $34 billion. The popularity in the use of RaaS is associated with its flexibility, scalability, and lower cost of entry.
  • Across the globe, robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming more prominent in the utility and energy sector. According to UK-based United Utilities, the technology is not only time saving, but also enhances robustness of management processes.
  • According to Smart Cities Dive, the market for robotics and drones for transmission and distribution will reach $13.2 billion by 2026 in the utility sector. The major robotic applications used in infrastructure management include ground-based, line-suspended and aerial robots (drones).

Circular Economy

  • The EU has estimated that by adopting a circular economy system through eco-design, waste prevention, and reuse, businesses can save up to €600 billion as well as reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 4%.
  • City planners across the globe are becoming inspired by circular economics by incorporating environmental friendly practices enhancing utility infrastructure management.
  • In a circular economy, green infrastructure, such as green roofs, can help in the recycling and management of toxic runoff, while also acting as sponge, reducing the overall contaminated runoffs into natural water bodies.
  • Through digitization, the adoption of circular economy will bolster the sustainable utilization of water, as several utilities across the globe are increasingly investing in water reuse and water reclamation.

Extreme Weather/Climatic Shifts

  • According to the United Nations, during extreme weather or climatic shifts, water adaptation technologies are vital to reduce inefficiency and water wastage. Such technologies include desalination of sea water and waste water reuse.
  • The water industry can also adopt other conservation strategies including managed aquifer recharge (MAR), source water protection, and conjunctive use of surface water and ground water.
  • In order to reduce the undesirable impacts of extreme weather and climatic conditions, water suppliers and management organizations are expected to adapt different measures, including insurance instruments, forecasting system, organization changes regarding water management, and economic and fiscal instruments.

Improved Membrane Technologies (application)

  • Improved membrane technologies, such as polymers of intrinsic microporosity (PIMs) and low cost polymer membranes, can help in the filtration of water and increase water flux due to their hydrophilic properties.
  • In a study conducted by Qui et al., hybrid microfiltration-osmosis membranes can be used to remove organic matter and nitrogen in municipal wastewater. The findings showed a decrease in bacteria deposition and fouling.
  • PIMs are water friendly as they are highly select when filtering organic molecules and salt ions, thus, can be used on a larger scale to generate drinking water.

Wastewater Byproducts (application)

  • Wastewater byproducts can be valuable for energy generation and in agriculture, making the treatment plants more financially and environmentally stable.
  • Biosolids, which are common wastewater byproducts, can be used to “recover degraded land, as compost or fertilizer in agriculture, as compost in gardens and golf courses, etc., and nutrients such as phosphorous can also be extracted and sold”
  • The most common approach to treating wastewater, anaerobic process, can utilize the byproducts to generate biogas. Other advantages of the anaerobic treatment process are convenience, safer method of converting waster into useful products, and lower energy requirement.
  • Large wastewater companies may also generate revenue from selling the treated wastewater and its by-products, thus, increasing revenue while also fulfilling the UN requirement of meeting global sustainable requirement.

Wastewater Recycling (application)

  • According to EPA, wastewater recycling will ensure that water demands are met due to increased availability and quality. High-level treatment such as groundwater aquifer recharge and surface water augmentation can be used to generate portable water, which is fit for human consumption.
  • Most recycled water is used for non potable purposes including golf course irrigation, creation of public parks, landscaping, and agriculture. Other uses are powering machinery and power plants, toilet flushing, construction, dust control, and industrial processes like paper milling.
  • Through wastewater recycling, the water industry is able to reduce bulk water consumption, improve its compliance with water regulations, and attain the goal of zero liquid discharge.

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From Part 01