We’re starting the discussion with arguably the most overlooked area in terms of “tech” - a department that, across the board, is reliant on clipboards and manual entry into excel for data storage and management. And that’s water and wastewater departments.
How is it that such an important public service isn’t on the radar? Well, for one, like most public services, they are thankless jobs and services that are taken for granted. But as states across the U.S. (and countries all over the world) begin to face growing demands on their water resources, we can no longer ignore the need for centralized, quality data and better maintenance of water infrastructure. CEO, Chris Sosnowski and his team at Waterly are here to do their part.
As Govlaunch works to build the global wiki for local government innovation, we’re highlighting a series of Disruptive technologies — innovative companies who aspire to bring local governments cutting-edge products, which have the potential to fundamentally change the way local governments operate and innovate. We chatted with the Waterly team about how their software delivers technology to streamline the work for water utilities nationwide.
How Waterly Works
Designed by water professionals to help their peers ingest data in the field and from smart instruments alike, Waterly is delivering a technology that will be hugely important as we forge ahead in the world of IoT and data-driven decision making.
Their pricing structure is also refreshingly transparent. Unlike most government-focused SaaS solutions that make you pay for licenses or surprise add-ons after-the-fact, Waterly’s prices are based on the size of the water system (index pricing to their income, which is typically dependent on how much water they sell). This is appealing, especially for small to medium-sized communities, who will pay proportionate to the size of their system. (For context, the Village of Arthur, IL uses their software and hosts a population just shy of 3,000 residents.) Sosnowski says:
“Saving time and effort on data collection and reporting allows that labor to be spent elsewhere such as on proactive maintenance or improving response time to residents.”
The base product is their software (no sensors or other monitoring devices included). Smart add-ins are available to sync SCADA, PLC, or sensor data securely to the app, where it is combined with manually entered operator data.
Onboarding ranges from 2 days to a few weeks, depending on data discrepancies and some manual work that may be needed to “fit” a government's existing data into the model. For instance, data integrity issues (common when using basic excel for these purposes) result in outliers that need to be addressed before employees can be sent off to the races with phone or tablet in hand. (Yes, you can leave the clipboard behind.)
Built by industry pros
CEO, Sosnowski began his career working at a water utility doing the grunt work.
“It was a great way to get introduced to the problem because I saw it and I lived it every day.”
After earning his degree in civil and environmental engineering, he began work as a co-founder of a company that integrated SCADA systems for water and wastewater and grew to be one of the largest to focus exclusively on water.
Out of that company, Waterly was born.
Sosnowski “quickly realized that despite all of the hardware and software tools out there, operators did not have a simple tool to replace the manual collection of data around water.”
Waterly was founded in 2017 and designed by self-proclaimed ‘water industry veterans’. The development work to produce the software was done by Indiana-based DeveloperTown, who is also invested in the company. Their boots on the ground meets IoT solution aims to deliver mobile and tablet friendly tech to a traditionally paper-based area of local government (Waterly’s research found that 85% of US local government entities still use pencil and clipboard for water data management!). Utilities Superintendent and Waterly customer from Village of West Dundee, IL comments: “I can’t believe I was using a clipboard for so long. You couldn’t pay me to go back to it.”
Sosnowski is hyper-focused on solving this paper-based and manual problem while positioning the software for the future, which is a clear passion of his:
“There are so many amazing, faithful stewards in government...they just don’t have a lot of simple, accessible tech made for them.”
Unfortunately, this extends beyond water utilities to much of local government.
Harnessing the power of data for the greater good
As with any data-driven SaaS solution, there is value in the data. Much of the data collected and maintained by local authorities in the U.S. is open and free to the public. That said, there are obstacles that make this request process cumbersome and extremely difficult to do at scale (FOIA anyone?). So for all of the folks out there who are up at night thinking about the future of water shortages or community access to clean water, Sosnowski is right there with you. He adds:
“The regulations and data are largely standardized across states in the U.S. so there is no reason we shouldn't be able to begin the work of connecting the dots and working across jurisdictions to manage water use and water quality better.”
He feels his team is driven by a greater calling. Sosnowski says:
“Part of our mission is to help coach water utilities in the value of standardized data.” While folks working in water utilities may not be particularly concerned about the more global issues around water, this is a big motivator for Sosnowski. “Obviously we’ve set out to deliver immediate value to water utilities through technology, but I also see Waterly’s greater calling to leverage standardized data to help address things like regional water shortages or water quality issues across the U.S.”
Embracing technology can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be
So what are the biggest obstacles to embrace a digital future for water according to Sosnowski? “Unwillingness or the fear of change has been the big one. Everyone is used to the way things have always been done and they are comfortable with it even if it’s not the best way it can be done.”
Sosnowski points out that the industry is losing some of the best senior level operators as they near retirement. While this will be a tough loss to the industry, the new wave of water professionals is likely to be much more open to embrace and fully leverage new technology. He shares: “We are also seeing retiring water stewards start to recognize the potential of leaving a “smarter” water data legacy.” Rather than waiting for this second wave, they’ve done the work to make the platform “ridiculously easy to use.”
This work includes incorporating many widely-used paper forms into their user interface and developing tools to generate the requisite regulatory reports in a single click. Waterly aims to bridge the gap in making the transition to paperless and digital water as seamless as possible – regardless of technical aptitude or size of the utility.
Curious to learn more about Waterly’s solution and how it may benefit your community? Schedule a demo here.
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