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Smart Water Project of the Year: Shortlist

For the project that most effectively harnessed digital solutions to achieve excellence in water or wastewater management in 2020.

Shortlisted Nominees


City of Columbia smart metering, USA

What is it?

A wholesale upgrading of the ageing water system in the city of Columbia, South Carolina, aimed at improving reliability, efficiency and conservation through the installation of digitally-enabled network technologies. The project represents one of the largest cellular AMI installations in the world.

What has it done?

Through the creation of 150,000 metered accounts, covering 400,000 residents across 320 square miles, technology provider Badger Meter and installation manager Utility Metering Solutions transformed Columbia Water’s operations and service offering. The rollout of Badger’s array of digital technologies including Beacon advanced metering analytics, Orion cellular LTE-M endpoints, Recordall Disc Series meters and E-Series Ultrasonic meters paid off immediately in the first year of operations for the project, with the system performing at 99.99% availability consistently during that time.

What makes it special?

A vastly improved data provision and handling capability means the city can now send accurate water bills and completely eliminated a legacy of meter issues and inaccurate billing, while consumers can manage their own water data through the use of a dedicated engagement tool that allows them to monitor usage at 15-minute increments and engage with advanced water usage metrics.

As one of the largest projects of its type to date to leverage cellular networks, the programme means Columbia Water can focus entirely on providing excellent water and customer service without having to maintain its own communications infrastructure.


The involvement of partners AOS Specialty Contractors Inc. and Farmer Construction, as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs), means that the digital and consumer-focused achievements of the project are matched by social improvement at the same time, a key breakthrough for increasingly socially-aware utility companies around the world.


Collingwood smart stormwater project, Canada

What is it?

Greenland Consulting Engineers organised the installation of smart pumps and other internet-enabled devices in the Ontario town of Collingwood to mitigate the impact of flooding and aggregate data on the impact of stormwater. One of the main pillars of the project was the installation of SafeSump smart pumps in the basement of buildings frequently affected by flooding, allowing residents to monitor the status of their pump using an app. Greenland also installed smart water cisterns from RainGrid to monitor stormwater runoff. Greenland provided ‘big data’ analysis to the Town of Collingwood, helping authorities assess different methods to manage the impact of stormwater flooding.

What has it done?

The trial successfully met its target of reducing stormwater runoff over ground surfaces by 50% during 24-hour rainfall periods. The data Greenland gathered from its range of smart devices provided vital insights on measures Collingwood could take to effectively mitigate stormwater damage, including rain gardens and gravel infiltration pits. By monitoring sewer levels, Greenland was also able to identify and address flaws in the existing stormwater management system.

What makes it special?

The success of this project was the product of dynamic collaboration between a broad range of technology vendors, environmental not-for-profits, universities, and local government. Bringing such diverse expertise effectively together into one consortium is a rare feat and gave a huge boost to public trust in the project.

The project played an essential role in providing residents with an unprecedented education in the risks of stormwater flooding and how to maintain their pumps, ensuring its benefits will carry on far beyond the lifetime of the project itself.


This project set a precedent in Canada for determining a much-needed a plan of action to mitigate the growing impact of stormwater flooding on residential, commercial and institutional properties and infrastructure. No previous digital project in the country had gathered such data in so much detail.


Khobar I digital twin, Saudi Arabia

What is it?

A digital twin for the development of Saudi Arabia’s 210,000m3/d Khobar I RO seawater desalination plant. The digital twin comprises a physical model incorporating more than 40,000 sensors and software to provide high-precision simulation of every function of the control system. It can be used to analyse and optimise productivity and, crucially, it can all be done remotely.

What has it done?

The digital twin can be operated remotely, which allowed Acciona to complete the commissioning of the plant despite COVID-19 travel restrictions from its base in Spain with only a skeleton crew on-site. Everything from the electrical circuits to the control systems was tested via the digital twin. The programme allowed for rapid, on-time delivery of the project in one of the most hostile operating environments for contractors ever seen.

What makes it special?

The novel application of remote servers and powerful cybersecurity protocols meant the digital twin process could be safely rolled out on an unprecedented scale. As the largest comparable example of the process to date, the Khobar plant demonstrates that digital design expertise can be deployed even on the world’s largest plants.

During a year when ongoing projects were regularly stymied by illnesses and travel restrictions brought in by the pandemic, the flawless use of digital expertise and remote working meant international collaboration on a crucial project could continue apace in the midst of a pandemic.


The project marked the most comprehensive use of the digital twin approach to date, employing a vast number of sensors to simulate the entire plant’s functionality, not just for training purposes, but to dynamically improve real performance following commissioning.


Suez COVID-19 City Watch programme

What is it?

The widespread deployment of system developed to sample, transport and analyse wastewater to detect traces of SARS-CoV-2 and provide early warning of infection spikes. First, Suez determines the optimum locations in the network to install automatic samplers that collect wastewater samples over a 24-hour period once a week. These samples are then transported to one of two Suez-run labs in Spain and France, staffed with in-house epidemiologists to interpret the data. This service feeds into a digital platform that visualizes information on virus trends and risk indicators for the use of municipalities and health authorities.

What has it done?

The COVID-19 City Watch programme has been applied in more than 70 Spanish cities, covering approximately 12.6 million people, and over 100 municipalities in France. On several occasions, this system has successfully detected oncoming infections surges, such as in the city of Dunkirk which was put into lockdown after receiving viral data from Suez. City Watch also monitors several schools and at one site a cluster of infections was identified in the wastewater after the return of children and teachers from the holidays which was confirmed with physical tests.

What makes it special?

Unlike any other service of its kind, Suez is responsible for every step of the process, from installing the samplers to the lab analysis and visualising the data.

The company developed its own rigorous scientific methodology for testing wastewater that has been validated by thorough inter-laboratory studies and French government scientists.


The system was developed in a remarkably short time frame and benefited from Suez’s vast range of partnerships with utilities across France and Spain to roll out the testing service at an unmatched scale.


The Global Water Awards 2021 is proudly sponsored by:

Dupont Water Solutions

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