The Water Research Foundation (WRF) has awarded Stantec the lead role in a global collaboration to define the framework for the digital transformation of the water industry.

The intended outcome of this collaboration is to assist utility leaders to make better, data-driven decisions supported by an Intelligent Water Systems (IWS) framework.

The project, titled Definition of Smart Utility—How to be a Digital Utility and the Framework for an Intelligent Water System (WRF 5039), is funded by WRF with monetary support from the Great Lakes Water Authority. The project also has in-kind support of research participants.

“Although various research organizations, utilities, and solution providers are assisting the industry in addressing parts of the transition to a digital and smart water sector, this study will create the first IWS framework to embed digital solutions and platforms in everyday utility business practice,” said Dr. Carla Cherchi, research lead and associate environmental specialist at Stantec.

Smart technologies complement traditional water infrastructure to give utilities greater awareness and control over their operations, allow for early detection of problems, address deteriorating infrastructure and workforce concerns, reduce operational costs, and improve resource efficiency. Digital technologies also enable water utilities to enhance decision-making, regulatory compliance, security, and customer benefits.

The project being led by Stantec will focus on developing a framework, or structure, of the critical aspects pertaining to the digital transformation of water and wastewater utilities. The framework will identify a tailored set of fundamental elements, best practices, and a transformation pathway necessary to assist organizations in becoming a smart utility. The project scope will also include the development of an online progress tool to allow utilities to more easily evaluate and validate their digital maturity.

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Dr. Carla Cherchi, who will serve as principal investigator for the study together with co-principal investigators Dr. Cello Vitasovic of 9D Analytics LLC and Stantec’s Prabhu Chandrasekeran, will leverage ongoing advancements in sensor, data management/analytics, and digital communication technologies throughout the 11-month WRF project.

Approximately 30 agencies from around the globe and seven data solution providers will provide technical input and critical review of the project deliverables alongside a nine-person technical advisory committee.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

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