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It’s unusual for many of us to give water supply a second thought. It’s there, it’s available and it’s a steady supply — or is it?

Ageing assets, shifting workforce demographics, emerging regulation, rising consumer expectations and other impeding issues challenge water utilities around the globe. Yet forward-thinking water utilities are creating innovation programs to address these challenges and they are reaping the benefits. These programs produce new tools, practices, cultures and processes that garner sustainable dividends that not only benefit the utility and their cities where they reside, but also the end-user. Sadly, barriers to innovation and the lack of program adoption amongst water utilities continue to hamper advancement. To achieve water sustainability — defined as resiliency, efficiency and quality by the Sustainable Cities Water Index — utilities have the large responsibility to create and inspire innovation programs for their industry.

Together with the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF), based on a series of collaborative workshops with utility leaders and professionals around the world, Arcadis led the creation of a utility innovation framework providing a clear path forward on how to innovate from a water utility perspective.

The Arcadis Empowering Water Utility Innovation report highlights the WRF/WE&RF research and innovation framework which allows water utilities to build environments of creativity, experimentation and incubation that will achieve new approaches to serve customers, manage assets, finance investments and realize superior utility performance with the added dividend of enhancing sustainability. Utilities are now in prime position to become innovators that will help lead us into an era of water sustainability. It’s definitely time to level-up water utility innovation even more.

The Innovation Engine

A Framework for Utility Innovation

Eight key disciplines for innovative utilities can be distilled into three primary elements: Impact, Capability and Engagement. This framework provides a manageable tool that can be applied to a wide range of water utilities.

The Pathway

As utilities face resiliency, efficiency and quality challenges, their responses often can, and should, include innovations through the innovation engine. These responses lead to the realization of sustainability dividends. For example, to face the efficiency challenge of service continuity, utilities can innovate with integrated asset management and furthermore, realize a sustainability dividend of asset longevity.


The Water Research Foundation, the leading not-for-profit research cooperative that advances the science of water, published the research project led by Arcadis, Fostering Innovation Within Water Utilities. To learn about the Water Research Foundation Project, visit

To learn about the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation and LIFT, visit

Speak to our Experts

John Batten

Connect with John Batten for more information & questions.

John Batten, Global Cities Director

Jason Carter

Connect with Jason Carter for more information & questions.

Jason Carter, Water Strategy & Innovation Lead

Esteban Azagra

Connect with Esteban Azagra for more information & questions.

Esteban Azagra, Water Business Advisory Lead

Jim Cooper

Connect with Jim Cooper for more information & questions.

Jim Cooper, Global Director for Water Optimization

Ifetayo Venner

Connect with Ifetayo Venner for more information & questions.

Ifetayo Venner, National Discipline Leader | Wastewater Treatment Service Line Leader

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