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03 March 2020 / Eric Bindler
Is the Water Market Headed for Digital Liftoff or Failure to Launch?

The water industry is flooded with emerging technology buzzwords like big data, artificial intelligence, digital twins, and the Internet of Things. As an independent market research firm, we at Bluefield make a concerted effort to differentiate marketing hype from market reality.

It is clear that digital technology will change the nature of water, wastewater, and stormwater management, but it is too soon to say just how quickly this change will occur, or how widespread it will be.

For this reason, Bluefield’s team of water experts has developed a scenario-based forecast model that accounts for a range of inputs and conditions that could shape the outlook for digital water going forward.

In our new reportWater Industry 4.0: U.S. & Canada Digital Water Market Forecast, 2019-2030, we forecast three distinct scenarios for the U.S. & Canada digital water market which result in cumulative expenditure ranging from US$78.7 billion to US$127.7 billion between 2019 and 2030.

  • Steady Flight represents Bluefield’s reference case and is the most likely market outlook based on current technology adoption trends in the U.S. & Canada water & wastewater industry. In the Steady Flight scenario, Bluefield forecasts US$92.6 billion in total digital water spend between 2019 and 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.5%—more than triple the broader water infrastructure sector’s 2% historical CAPEX growth rate.
  • Digital Liftoff is Bluefield’s more optimistic high case and assumes that digital technology becomes mainstream in the U.S. & Canada utility industry—especially among small and medium-sized utilities, which have different needs and procurement practices than their larger peers. For this to happen, however, a rapid cultural shift will need to take place within utilities in their quest for more efficient customer, network, and asset management.
  • Failure to Launch, a gloomier perspective, assumes that the uptake of digital water solutions remains limited to a minority of large, innovative early adopter utilities. Within this more restricted addressable market, digital water vendors will be increasingly challenged to navigate a smaller, more competitive landscape that already lends itself to the established platform players.

Bluefield Research’s “Steady Flight” Forecast Scenario, 2019-2030

Source: Bluefield Research

The question is no longer, will the water industry go digital? Instead, we ask how quickly, by which utilities, at what impact, and how big is the opportunity? Factors that will move the needle range from regulatory shifts and demographic, economic, and environmental pressures to utility adoption rates and digital business models that cater to a wide population of utility service providers.

At Bluefield, we provide clients with an independent, holistic view of key issues, trends, risks, challenges, and opportunities so they are prepared in any scenario.

Download a complimentary excerpt of our new digital water report. To learn more about our views on the future of water, contact me at

Eric Bindler
Research Director

Eric Bindler is the Research Director for Bluefield Research’s Digital Water Insight Service. His areas of expertise include digital water hardware and software, water and wastewater network infrastructure, water finance and investment, and the U.S. municipal utility sector. He also leads the Smart Water Networks Forum (SWAN): Americas Alliance’s Research Group, for which he was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award by industry peers and professionals. Eric’s in-depth analysis is often cited in press, and he is also a frequent panelist at global industry and corporate events.

Eric holds an MA in Global Development Policy from Boston University, as well as an MA in Ethnomusicology from Indiana University, and a BA in Music and Anthropology from Rollins College. During his time at Boston University, Eric worked at the Public Works Department in Needham, Massachusetts, consulted on a project for UN Environment’s Climate Change Sub-programme, and served as an author and contributor to Boston University’s 2017 Climate Action Plan Report. He is also a former adjunct professor of anthropology at Rollins College.

Engineering consultancies (EPCs) are taking on new roles as digital water solutions providers. Who is best positioned? @AECOM @ArcadisGlobal @brwncald @BVWater@CarolloTweets@CDMSmith @GHD_NAmerica @hazenandsawyer @woodardcurran @MottMacDonald @Stantec

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