Welsh Water among first in industry to publish open data strategy

25 April 2024

Welsh Water, the only not-for-profit water company in England and Wales, is among the first in the water industry to publish their open data strategy.

The strategy is designed to instil an "open-by-default" culture, signifying a fundamental shift for the industry, where data will be targeted for publishing unless specific safeguards, such as protecting personal information, dictate otherwise.

The company, and the water industry in general, holds a huge amount of data on its assets and performance and by making this data ‘open’, this means it’s available for all - the public, scientists, regulators and the wider industry. Data sets can range widely, examples ranging from water consumption at a domestic level, to water quality, to reservoir levels.

By publishing the strategy openly, the water company aims to encourage others to do the same as well as to drive collaboration in helping to solve some of the biggest challenges faced by the industry and beyond.

Kit Wilson, Director of Operational Services at Welsh Water said: “It’s exciting to launch our open data strategy. It provides a real statement of intent and will spark innovation to improve services and help solve problems. Welsh Water has a long-standing reputation of being open, and our regulators OFWAT have previously highlighted that Welsh Water already does this well, so it was a natural step for us. We’ve been on this journey for years, sharing data with trusted partners and utility companies.”

Welsh Water has historically shared data with universities in Wales to spark innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing the industry. It’s also played a key role in the industry data-sharing platform ‘Stream’, which is a great example of the industry-wide approach.

Kit explains: “There’s been a huge shift within the industry. With water companies facing similar problems and looking to share knowledge and information, Steam enables us to share, learn from each other and grow as an industry to earn the trust of customers. It’s a huge achievement for the industry.”

The company has also ensured that its customer stakeholder groups, such as the Customer Challenge Group, have been part of the process in developing this strategy to ensure that they will find it useful and that their priorities are captured in the data-sets that are made available.

Pete Davis, Chair of the Independent Challenge Group, the customer focus group that provides scrutiny and challenge to Welsh Water activities, said: “This strategy is an important step forward in delivering the company’s commitment to transparency and providing open access to information - the essential element in building customer trust.”

Kit added: “Customers expect transparency, and our open data strategy isn’t just a tick box exercise for us – it’s the right thing to do. One of our core values is to earn the trust of our customers every day and trust is a big reason for creating the strategy in the way we have.”

Louise Burke, CEO of the Open Data Institute said: "In publishing their open data strategy, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is taking an important step for Wales and the water sector. Already in the energy industry, publishing data and digital strategies has created the foundations for a more open and innovative sector.”

“Now, Dŵr Cymru is taking positive steps towards creating the same impact for the water sector; delivering value to households and the environment. We welcome these commitments to openness, collaboration and responsible data stewardship and look forward to continuing to support Dŵr Cymru on their open data journey.”