Sia Partners supporting open data platform for water industry

18 May 2022 3 min. read
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A consortium of players in the water industry is working on the development of open data sharing platform. Consultants from Sia Partners are supporting the consortium.

Water regulator Ofwat is currently hosting the Water Breakthrough Challenge – an innovation competition delivered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with Arup and Isle Utilities. This has seen a £6 million grant awarded to Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) for innovation projects in the utilities sector. The funding has been granted to two separate projects; The National Leakage Research and Test Centre (NLRTC), which was awarded £5.3 million, and Stream, which was awarded £880,000.

Stream was first proposed by NWG CIO Nigel Watson at an informal industry dinner and subsequently submitted by NWG, with wide industry backing, to the Water Breakthrough Challenge. It looks to develop of a new open data-sharing platform for the water industry and beyond. The platform will eventually allow all of the UK water companies to share data with one another, other utilities companies, and the wider public. This is hoped to transform customer services by increasing transparency and efficiency between companies, fostering collaboration as they look to improve services.

Sia Partners supporting open data platform for water industry

Speaking to technology news site The Stack, Watson explained, “It does feel like an important day for the industry. Open Data is increasingly important. All of the companies need to get to net zero. We ourselves have an ambition to get there in the next five years; the industry is trying to get there by 2030… I think Open Data can help us learn from each other about how we are operating assets, using energy – the water industry is the UK’s fourth most energy-intensive industry – and reacting to the impact of climate change that’s already baked in.”

With a shared platform, the belief is that sharing best practice and learning will become easier across the water industry, as it reckons with such challenges. It will also help perform cross-sectoral changes across water and energy; water and housing; water and agriculture, making it easier for the utilities sector to replicate and scale innovative projects across the country.

A number of third-parties are bringing additional insight to bear and helping sets Stream up, while standardising its formats. Heading up this project will be a consortium of 14 water and professional services firms. Alongside these partners include Anglian Water, Dwr Cymru, Scottish Water, SES Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water, South West Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Aiimi, Costain, and the Open Data Institute (ODI) – as well as consultancy Sia Partners.

The companies will play an important role in the “heavy lifting” ahead for the project. According to Watson, there has already been “big effort” on agreeing common data formats; as well as translating large datasets from each source into those common data formats. Meanwhile, architecturally the project is still determining whether to go “very centralised or in some way distributed/hybrid” – something which Watson added will “probably depend a bit on the datasets themselves.”

The move comes as the UK’s utility scene comes under intense scrutiny. In the case of water companies, in the UK they made £2.8 billion in combined operating profits for 2021 (including Northumbrian Water taking operating profits of £195 million), while shareholders have raked in £16.8 billion in dividends over the past 11 years. This has prompted fierce criticism from the public, as water companies were also found to be leaking record levels of sewage into British waters – leading campaigners to argue that water companies should be spending their profits on improving and maintaining their networks, as well as cleaning up waterways impacted.