Hydroinformatics is more than water and informatics

Hydroinformatics is often erroneously considered a purely technological field of developing and applying information and communication technologies (ICT) to water challenges. Yes, it is that, but in my view, it is a much broader term- a management philosophy developed to respond to global water challenges made possible by technology. Therefore, it is not only ICT or IoT-related, but also fully embraces the human-in-the-loop principle with all associated considerations, e.g., ethics, bias, equity, privacy, data protection, etc.

At KWR, we embrace the abovementioned holistic approach to hydroinformatics and embed those principles in our activities in the entire water cycle. We see hydroinformatics as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the water industry and a strategic partner for the digital transformation of the water sector. We also ensure that water utilities have a shared vision and understanding of challenges and opportunities in deploying digital technologies.

The critical component of any management, including water systems, is understanding the managed process and making it more efficient. Hydroinformatics integrates everything from data collection and preparation to model development for prediction and decision-making in the water sector.

There are numerous examples of hydroinformatics in the water industry: machine learning for early warning systems, AI-based optimisation to schedule the redesign and rehabilitation of water infrastructure, or determining the optimal placement of sensors. At KWR, we also employ machine learning in various fields of water management, from predicting the condition and lifetime of pipes through water quality assessment and treatment works improvements to chatbots for customer service at drinking water companies. These applications make dealing with complex water management challenges more effective and efficient.

Digital transformation can face several technical, organisational and cultural barriers. For example, the reliance on a single technology that relies on other technologies, like mobile data, a lack of standardised approaches and cybersecurity are just some of the technical barriers. Organisational barriers include a lack of strategy and financial resources and often missing skills. Cultural barriers include risk aversion, the preference for traditional approaches and fear of job losses.

I see hydroinformatics as an essential approach to tackling some of the industry’s most significant challenges. By integrating multi-source, multi-resolution data, promoting intelligent investments in digital water infrastructure, ensuring consumer benefits and strengthening cybersecurity, hydroinformatics will help the water sector move toward a climate-proof future.