Digitalisation in the water sector – a new digitalisation index shows that the sector is unexpectedly well positioned
„1. HRW-Digitalisierungsindex für die Wasserwirtschaft (2021)“, Prof. Dr. Mark Oelmann, Christoph Czichy, Eva-Maria Inderelst, Hochschule Ruhr West, Mülheim an der Ruhr, 1. Auflage.
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In January 2021, the Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences and Prof. Dr. Mark Oelmann, head of the Institute for Water and Energy Economics there, presented a study on the degree of digitalisation in the German water industry. The study, which is based on extensive interviews done through industry surveys, provides detailed insights into the state of the digital status quo. The focus is on water supply. (Results from wastewater disposal are also available, but according to the authors they are not fully representative due to the smaller number of interviewees.)
The goals of the digitalisation index are, on the one hand, to create a sector-specific benchmark for digital development. On the other hand, the index should support companies in dealing with the topic in a structured way and create the prerequisite for comparison. In addition, the index also fulfils a “showcase function”: it documents the variety of approaches that the sector is pursuing and thus shows political decision-makers, supervisory bodies, (environmental) associations and authorities that the water industry is using the potential of digitalisation to efficiently overcome current challenges.
In our view, these goals are fully achieved with the very detailed and clearly illustrated study. For the KWB as a research institution, the statements on ensuring data quality are particularly interesting and informative. According to the study, water utilities are very aware of the importance of data quality for digital development. In a “food for thought for companies”, it is pointed out that ensuring data quality is an important building block in the course of digital development.
Quote: “An intensive examination of this topic shows that this is made more difficult by two aspects in particular: On the one hand, the increasing amount of data in many areas, combined with an increasingly desired real-time availability, simply leads to capacity problems – both in terms of personnel (data scientists with water management expertise are rare!) and in terms of IT infrastructure. On the other hand, relevant data traces sometimes show large differences and there is a need to distinguish operational anomalies from measurement errors and to repair data in an automated way – data plausibility checks therefore usually turn out to be a highly complex task.”
We can fully endorse this assessment and it confirms our continued intensified focus on these topics. Dealing with the aforementioned challenges is the daily bread of our data scientists, for example in the creation of ageing forecasts for sewer networks with the SEMA tool, but also in the daily accuracy of predicted bathing water quality in flowing waters based on OpenData. In the EU project Digital-Water.City, such forecasts will be used to ensure the safety of the swimming competitions of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.