Ofwat has today called on all water companies to take immediate action across eight areas to unleash the benefits of open data.
In a new report, the regulator has found widespread public support for water companies opening their data, but that water companies have made little progress in opening datasets.
Ofwat has set out clear and urgent actions it expects companies to take including:
- identifying priority data sets for release;
- reviewing datasets that have so far only been shared with limited groups and take steps to make them openly available;
- proactive leadership to develop and publish a clear roadmap by October this year for open data delivery for the industry; and
- releasing data sets with an open licence to encourage information to be freely used.
These steps will enable data to be publicly shared with innovators, citizen scientists and the public, allowing the benefits of open data to be fully explored and for the water sector to keep pace with the wider digital economy. To ensure that customers and the environment benefit from the potential of open data, Ofwat is also developing a new licence condition that will provide new powers to ensure companies deliver on the challenge.
Ofwat has previously found in its 2021 report ‘H2Open, Open data in the water industry: a case for change’, that there would be significant benefits to customers, the environment and society from water companies opening their data – including improvements in water company performance.
Open data means making data freely available for everyone to access, use and share. Open data promotes greater transparency and trust and helps innovators to find solutions to environmental and other challenges.
Lisa Commane, Chief Operating Officer, Ofwat said:
“We are challenging companies to show proactive leadership and go further and faster to open up their data. Ofwat, together with the public, expects to see water companies making tangible progress towards the establishment of an open and trustworthy data ecosystem. This needs to happen now and we will look to underpin this with new Ofwat powers where progress falters.
“Learning from other sectors shows that as well as having established data infrastructure, companies must embed a stronger data culture, bring capability and skills into the sector and improve collaboration to speed up delivery. We expect water companies to be able to demonstrate more evidence of tangible progress during 2023 and 2024.”
A copy of ‘Open data in the water industry: making the change’ can be found here: Open data in the water industry: making the change – Ofwat
Ofwat’s 2021 H2Open report is here: https://www.ofwat.gov.uk/publication/h2open-open-data-in-the-water-industry-a-case-for-change/
On 22 March 2023 the House of Lords Industry and Regulators Committee published its ‘The affluent and the effluent: cleaning up failures in water and sewage regulation’ report, following an inquiry. The Committee called for water companies to take more action to provide open data on the environmental performance of their wastewater network and treatment works.
On 16 May 2023 Ofwat announced the winners of its latest innovation competition (Water Breakthrough Challenge 3). This included awarding £4m to an open data project called ‘Stream’. Stream aims to deliver open data infrastructure that will allow data users to search, understand and access open and shared data, and allow providers to publish data openly and share sensitive data securely. Ofwat requires Stream to share its achievements and learnings across the sector and will monitor Stream’s progress on a quarterly basis.