WISE Program

Managing a utility is a complex challenge that benefits from a methodology based on systems thinking. WISE (Water Intrapreneurship for Strategic Enterprises) is a program to improve utility management.

The methodology starts with assessments based on maturity models and includes specific steps for improvement that include change management and learning. This program includes active engagement, collaboration, and sharing by the participating utilities. It enables these utilities to achieve performance goals with repeatable, common-sense techniques tailored to the water sector.

A "wise" organization has the capability to:

  • Define its purpose and values, adaptable to changing society or environment requirements.
  • Discern how value is created and how it impacts external entities.
  • Decide based on knowledge acquisition and continuous information collection and analysis
  • Deploy methods for effective learning and change that include consider all aspects of utility management including the value system.

We have an FAQ section below answering the most asked questions about WISE. 

Interested in becoming a WEF WISE Utility Partner?

Please fill out the WEF WISE Application form. If you are already subscribed to WEF WISE and need assistance, please contact WISE@wef.org.

Additional documents for reference:

View Privacy Statement  View network agreement


Current Utilities Participating in WISE

  • Charlotte Water (NC)
  • City of Baltimore Department of Public Works (MD)
  • DC Water
  • Great Lakes Water Authority (MI)
  • KC Water (MO)
  • Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (KY)
  • Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MN)
  • Metro Vancouver (Canada)
  • MWRD Denver (CO)
  • Portland BES (OR)
  • Portland Water (OR)
  • San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (CA)
  • Toho Water (FL)
  • UK Environment Agency (UK)
  • Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (MD)


Below is a list of the most common questions related to the WISE program.

1. What is the history of the program?

The first UAIM workshop was held at the 2017 Utility Management Conference. During the first two years of the project (2017 – 2019), the focus was on documenting different business processes in a consistent format (BPMN 2.0).  Several business process models were developed independently by different utilities and posted to the Water Sector Value Model. In 2019, the project was extended by two years under the sponsorship of WRF. During this two-year period, the scope of the project was split into two “tracks”: utilities continued with independent business process modeling in Track 1, and Track 2 included collaborative work on topics of common interest: Developing Asset Management Plans, CIP Planning, CIP Delivery, and Enterprise Risk Management. During the last year (2020 – 2021), three additional topics were added to Track 2: Workforce, Organizational Culture, and Change Management.

2. How does WISE work?

Utilities engaged in WEF WISE:

  • Document their processes and share at their discretion with other WISE utilities. Project documentation is uploaded to a knowledge base accessible through the secure subscriber portal.
  • Exchange information about their processes, metrics, and improvements
  • Collaborate on developing recommended processes and practices for business areas of the greatest priority/interest

3. How much does it cost to participate?

The direct cash contribution depends on the size of the utility.

4. How many people can participate with a single utility subscription?  

When a utility becomes a member of WISE, any/all their employees will be able to participate. On UAIM, most utilities were represented by different people on different ongoing initiatives. For example, an HR person may participate in the Organizational Culture or Workforce initiative, an Asset Manager in the initiative focused on Developing Asset Management Plans, and someone from the Project Management Office may participate in CIP Planning. It is also common that a participant may be very actively engaged in one topic/initiative and have more of an “observer” role in other topics.

5. What are the required qualifications to join the program?

There are no formal requirements or qualifications. Any water sector utility can join this program. 

6. Who will the main point of contact for the utility?

The WISE program will construct an “Engagement Map” that will define which members from different utilities will be participating in different initiatives. Each participating utility will configure their engagement and identify the points of contact within their organization for each of the initiative. For example, an organization could name Mary and Bill to be engaged in the Workforce initiative and James to be engaged on CIP Planning initiative.

7. What is the level of participation required?

There are no formal requirements on the level of engagement for participating utilities. Each utility will design their engagement levels in different initiatives based on their own priorities and needs. However, with an active e engagement a utility will maximize the most important benefits of this effort including development of best practices, peer to peer collaboration on initiatives, and sharing of artifacts (e.g., risk matrices, asset management plans, CIP delivery processes). 

8. Are there any development opportunities for participants?

The peer-to-peer collaboration among participating utilities offers numerous opportunities for development. On any of the initiatives, the participants may include people that are on executive level, upper management, and both senior and junior staff members. A young professional who participates in an initiative will be at the table with more seasoned professionals – and mentor/mentee relationships would emerge naturally and organically through collaboration and engagement. Each of the initiatives has a Lead from a participating utility, ensuring that the research is always focused on real and relevant topics and that it produces actionable deliverables of practical value. UAIM participants have always been featured as main speakers in UAIM sessions at conferences (UMC, WEFTEC) and this tradition will continue under the WISE program. 

9. How many meetings and events will there be for the program?

Each initiative team typically meets biweekly. Workshops will be held at the Utility Management Conference and at WEFTEC, with one additional potential workshop in the early summer hosted by a participating utility.

10. What are specific benefits that can be realized for my utility?

The WISE flyer describes the types of benefits utility participants are observing, such as collaboration with utility peers, understanding a common methodology for business process documentation, efficiencies achieved through streamlining of business processes, discovery of leading practice for each topic area, use of a common portal that includes contributed artifacts, and flexibility in the extent of participation by utility staff. In the coming year there will also be a focus on utility specific applications and case studies in selected business processes, assessments, and related utility improvement.

Additional Information

If you are interested in subscribing to WEF WISE, please fill out the WISE application, or e-mail WISE@wef.org for more information.  If you are already subscribed to WEF WISE and need assistance, please contact WISE@wef.org. 

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