Datawell: A data sharing initiative in the UK water sector


In November 2017, a team of people from across nine organisations agreed to a 90 day initiative to create a minimal viable product (MVP) and set out some specifications of what success for the MVP would look like; for example, the ability to ingest data, model data, transform data, blend data, visualise data and export data.

At the day 60 meet in February the MVP scored 85% against the success criteria. The collaboration team renamed the MVP‘The DataWell’ and decided that it was a viable product that was infinitely scalable. They also agreed that it was worthwhile inviting other parties to become involved either as data providers, technology partners, data consumers or advisors.

At the day 90 meet the original team of Southern Water, Google, Birst and Solidatus were joined by Welsh Water and Northumbrian Water, The Open Data Institute, Portsmouth University, Leeds University and Tata Consultancy Service. Three regulators – Ofwat,Environment Agency and Drinking Water Inspectorate – have been observers since day 0. The new enlarged team decided collectively to take The DataWell into a second day 90 initiative to increase the volume and variety of data within the platform and to develop some outcomes for use cases.The motivation behind the Southern Water inspired initiative is twofold:

1. To find a better process for managing and submitting data to regulators, to reduce cost and improve integrity and assurance.

2. To embrace the release of open data sets for the benefit of the water sector and society as a whole through open data sets and data sharing, and to increase transparency and trust. Data sharing and open data sets enable innovation.

The DataWell initiative is similar to the California Data Collaborative(“CaDC”), formed in 2016. The CaDC is a coalition of water utilities that has pioneered a new data infrastructure non-profit 501 (c) (3) to support water managers in meeting their reliability objectives and to serve the public good: “Working together to ensure water reliability no matter what the future holds”.

The DataWell has demonstrated value beyond the ‘data’ and‘technology’. It has been an example of innovative collaboration between partners in addressing a sizeable problem and in project management. These approaches have delivered collaboration in 90 days at an infrastructure cost of 7p.

The Amsterdam City Open Data programme has three guiding principles which resonate with The DataWell:

1. Open Data

2. Open Infrastructure

3. Open Mind

The now expanded collaboration team has set further ambitious targets for The DataWell and updates will be featured in Smart Energy International on a regular basis. SEI