More than 8,000 water advocates came together in San Antonio, Texas for American Water Works Association (AWWA)’s Annual Conference & Exposition (ACE) earlier this month. With dozens of sessions and hundreds of exhibitor booths, attendees walked away determined that we can all come together to solve water. 

Conversations and sessions were focused on solving some of the biggest challenges facing the water industry. Xylem created an interactive survey based on these challenges that allowed attendees to respond to a new question each day. With every answer received, we donated $10 to the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, totaling $5,000.

Intertwining our survey results and hot topics from the show, we outlined some of the top takeaways from this year’s event.

The time for digital transformation (and big data) is now.

Population growth is rampant in the United States with an increase of more than 393,000 people in 2021. Larger communities means more responsibility for utilities. Customers are expecting more, but do you have the technology you need to provide more? With data and analytics through a smart water system, you’re able to monitor your entire water network empowering your utility to make informed decisions with data-driven insights. Leaks and bursts are addressed before they happen, money is saved, residents are made aware of water usage, and utilities can respond more quickly to an emergency for better control of water loss – all thanks to a digital network.  

Aging infrastructure is a challenge for everyone.

We asked what your biggest water challenge was on the first day of the show and aging infrastructure was the clear winner. This theme emerged throughout the entire show. In many cases, the value of buried pipelines represents two-thirds of a utility’s total assets. This calls us to ask, how do we make the invisible visible? With accurate, actionable data, utilities can identify at-risk pipes and valves, perform targeted repairs, and maximize the life of their most valuable assets.

You’re planning to address pipelines/lead service lines (LSLs) with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

All eyes are on the $55 billion to EPA-administered projects through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This is not a surprise as LSLs is the single highest water-related priority of the IIJA. Although time-consuming, it may make the most sense to tackle all infrastructure needs in the same project. Need ideas on how to utilize funds from the IIJA? Read more from Chris Thomson, Director of Strategic Initiatives, on how to strategically use these funds for your utility here.

The biggest hurdle you face right now is the workforce/talent shortage…

…closely followed by supply chain constraints. closely followed by supply chain constraints. Both of these are complex, multi-faceted issues that can’t be resolved by one action. We learned that flexibility built into your water system is a must and continued conversations between those in the industry are vital – not to just identify trends but to solve water for the whole world – together.

If we saw you at ACE this year, we could not be more thrilled to have connected with you in person. If you couldn’t attend, browse our ACE website to learn more about the themes from the conference and featured sessions.

We can’t wait to connect with you further and to see you next year in Toronto!