Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT)


Intelligent Water Systems Challenge

Leveraging data, demonstrate the value of intelligent water systems to utilities to foster the adoption of smart water technologies
Finalist presentations and awards ceremony at WEFTEC 2019



Today’s water industry operates complex treatment, collection, and distribution systems to protect public and ecological health. These systems are increasingly instrumented to monitor key process indicators and other parameters to facilitate operations. The Water Research Foundation (WRF) and Water Environment Federation (WEF) LIFT program is holding the LIFT Intelligent Water Systems Challenge to demonstrate the value to utilities of these “intelligent water systems”. The Challenge seeks to foster the adoption of smart water technologies by showcasing the ability of intelligent water systems to effectively leverage data for better decisions. 

Solution Goals: 

  • Demonstrate the value of intelligent water systems
  • Leverage data using the best available tools to better understand and make decisions.

Prizes: The Challenge will recognize the best solutions developed by Challenge participants, offering a top prize of $10,000. Recognition will also be given to innovative approaches and to outstanding contributions from students or young professionals. 

The Challenge will work with water utilities around the world to identify individual challenges. Teams will work to address these individual challenges through innovative analytics applied to data from utilities’ intelligent water systems. Some utilities may have capacity and interest to participate directly on teams, while other utilities may limit their involvement to furnishing a problem statement and relevant data. The Challenge will therefore distinguish between two types of solvers: 

  • Teams will select a Challenge problem statement provided by a utility and develop and implement a solution approach with minimal interaction with the utility. Multiple teams can select the same challenge and independently implement a solution.


Open to any individual that has completed registration. Participation by utility members, technology providers, consultants, academia, and students is encouraged. There is no participation limit for any single organization. 

Teams can consist of a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 6 people. Each team member must complete an individual registration form.


Team Lead registering for all the team members with contact information is required on the Survey Gizmo by March 20 - Individual registration by each team member is required. If an individual is on multiple teams, they must disclose to all teams their participation and role in each team for transparency and clarify participation expectations. 

Each team will have one identified Team Lead. 

Submission of Challenge Plan and Challenge Solution via online platform ( by 11:59 PM EST on the associated deadline. Materials submitted via another format or to another Steering Committee member will not be accepted. No additions or modifications to the submitted materials will be accepted after the deadline. 

  • Challenge Plan deadline is April 24, 2020. Plan must be no longer than 3 pages.
  • Challenge Solution deadline is August 10, 2020. Solution must be no longer than 7 pages and may include an appendix that will not count towards the maximum page limit.

If previous work has been done on the proposed problem, teams must clearly articulate the existing work and the intended scope of work to be done under this Challenge period in the Challenge Plan. 

If a proprietary technology or software is part of the Challenge Solution, teams must indicate in the submission materials and request signed NDA forms from steering committee members and judges. The Challenge is not responsible for managing intellectual property rights.

Challenge Plan Submission 

Each team should submit a Challenge Plan that will be provided to the Steering Committee and judges. The Challenge Plan must be submitted via the online platform ( by April 24, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. 

The Challenge Plan must include (but is not limited to): 

The team: 

  • Identify the Team Lead, who will serve as the primary point of contact for the Challenge
  • For each team member include: name, title, organization, email, and skill-set/area of expertise
  • Description of each team member’s role and responsibilities

The Problem Statement: 

  • Explanation of the problem/need faced by the utility that the team is solving for
  • Explanation of the desired outcome for the solution. What is the target or goal that is trying to be met? What metrics will be used to evaluate progress and success?

The Intelligent Water System: 

  • Describe the current system (e.g. data source, technology used, networking, system architecture, O&M) that is relevant to the problem being solved.
  • If previous work has been done on the proposed problem, please clearly articulate the existing work and the intended scope of work to be done under this Challenge period

The Plan: 

  • Description of proposed solution, level of effort and timeline; may include visuals or graphics. Teams should note if for the Challenge the solution is a pilot or a full-scale solution.
  • Timeline to implement proposed solution.

Challenge Solution Submission 

Each team should submit a Challenge Solution that will be provided to the Steering Committee and judges. The Challenge Solution must be submitted via the online platform ( by August 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. 

The Challenge Solution must include (but is not limited to): 

The Team: 

  • Names of Team Lead and members 
  • Identify if any changes to the team have occurred during the duration of the 

Challenge Problem Statement: 

  • This portion of the Solution should be a maximum of 2 pages 
  • Concisely describe the problem/need the Team is solving for 
  • Describe key considerations and the desired outcome 

The Solution: 

  • This portion of the Solution should be a maximum of 5 pages 
  • Recap the Intelligent Water System and any possible modifications or additions identified to meet the outcome goal 
  • Description of the implementation and whether any adjustments were made. 
  • Quantified and/or qualified value add of the solution 
  • Next steps for the solution beyond the Challenge 
  • Outline financial support needed or considerations 
  • Considerations of replication by other utilities to address a similar problem 
  • Description of any difficulties faced and how the team mitigated them 
  • How will the results of the solution be communicated and used by the utility 
  • Identify data streams and QA/QC considerations 
  • Analysis and interpretation to support the solution

Judging Criteria

View judging criteria here.



The Challenge 

What is the overall goal of this Challenge? Our goal is to demonstrate the value of using advanced sensing and/or data technology to deliver cost-effective operations and sustainable watershed management for utilities while allowing students, professionals and technology enthusiasts the opportunity to showcase their talents and innovations. 

What is the Challenge approach? The Challenge is about building a complete team to address utility needs through better decision-making, and also about shared learning and (we hope) having fun together. 


What is a Team? A Team consists of no more than six individual members who will work together to address a Need Statement. 

Who can be on a Team? There is no constraint on organizational affiliations of the team members and full flexibility in team membership. We envision some teams with multiple (or even all) members from the same utility, perhaps taking advantage of the Challenge to build better inter-departmental ties. Steering Committee members and judges may not be part of a team. 

Can an individual participate on more than one Team? An individual can be on multiple teams. 

Can teams add members? Teams may freely add members up to the challenge plan submission deadline. Between the challenge plan submission deadline and the time of the first check-in, the team must request permission to add members by transmitting a written request to the Steering Committee that includes an explanation of the reasons for the request; the Steering Committee will approve or deny the request within one week. Priority should be given to those who already registered but not matched to any team yet. 

How can a utility or team keep its intellectual property confidential? The IWS Challenge is not responsible for protecting Teams' intellectual property rights. If confidential aspects of a proprietary technology or software are presented as part of a Team's solution, it is the Team's responsibility to indicate this in their submittal and to request appropriate non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) from Steering Committee members and judges. Similarly, if a utility does not wish its data to be shared beyond the IWS Challenge Teams working with that data, the utility is responsible for requesting similar agreements from Team members. A model NDA form is available from the Steering Committee. 


What can I do if I have a great solution already in place? Problems with previously completed solutions are not eligible for prize consideration, but may be submitted for recognition as advancing the concept of Intelligent Water Systems. Recognition may include opportunities to showcase the completed solution during the planned IWS Challenge educational activities, and acknowledgement at the IWS Challenge finals at WEFTEC 2020. 

What should I do if I have a neat Need and am already working towards a solution? Opportunities and problems with solutions already begun are eligible for prize consideration, but the submittal must clearly describe previously accomplished work, including existing IWS components.

Can proprietary technology be used in a solution? Proprietary technology (i.e. custom analytics tools, as contrasted with open-source software) can be used in a solution. The Challenge criteria are intended to give judges flexibility in evaluating the value of a solution; for example, a portable and scalable solution implemented with proprietary tools may provide an alternative contribution worthy of consideration.