Cutting-edge, smart water solutions are gaining traction with municipal water utilities, which see data and analytics as critical tools for overcoming the age-old issue of crumbling water infrastructure. In fact, over $20 billion is slated for metering, data management and analytics globally from 2016-2025, according to Bluefield Research, Boston, Mass.

At the root of this change is the mounting financial pressure that is forcing water utilities and municipalities to do more with less. This has sparked an uptick in demand for innovative solutions to more cost-effectively manage billing and customer management, leakage rates and energy consumption.

"By zeroing in on key drivers of operating costs, water utilities are optimizing their operations with smart technologies," says Keith Hays, vice president. "The solutions are not new, as they draw from existing equipment, software and analytics tools, but a significant hurdle will be integrating legacy systems with new software platforms."

In some cases, the results have been significant—halving non-revenue water leaks and billing errors and reducing energy consumption from 20% to 40%. As much as 30% of water utility operating expenditures can be improved almost immediately through more dynamic and real-time system monitoring.

The smart water sector is expected to scale to $12 billion in the United States and $11 billion in Europe by 2025. Other hotspots for smart water activity include Australia, Singapore and Israel, where water stress and established utility network operators are more receptive to advanced technology adoption. European utilities are at the forefront of smart water in terms of operational solutions, while the United States leads in terms of metering.

Bluefield has also seen an uptick of mergers and acquisitions with larger, more diversified players moving deeper into the sector.

"Smart water is bringing a wide range of new companies into the water industry, from multiple sectors and value chain positions, which is fitting for an industry opening itself up to the massive potential," says Hays. "We expect to see more industry consolidation over the next 3-5 years, as technology firms build utility track records and larger industrial players find synergies within their larger product portfolios."