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Meet our Scientific Advisory Board: Rita Ugarelli

Rita Ugarelli is Chief Scientist at SINTEF Community and adjunct professor at the Norwegian technical university in Norway. She holds a PhD in Civil engineering with focus on urban water infrastructure asset management. She has coordinated the H2020 STOP-IT project (, leader of the work package dealing with cybersecurity in the H2020 Digital Water project ( and with the development of a “water smartness” assessment framework in the H2020 B-WaterSmart project (
She is project manager for SINTEF of several projects related to urban water infrastructure asset management, with focus on condition assessment, reliability analysis, rehabilitation, digital transition, investment planning and sustainable development. She covers the role of co-leader of the Water Europe ( cluster “Digital Water” and of the action group “critical infrastructure protection” of the ICT4Water Cluster ( Rita is Associate Editor of the “Urban Water Journal” and member of the CERIS Expert group FCT/INFRA.

What are the main infrastructure challenges in your area, and in your country?

– Water infrastructure is a vital lifeline for communities worldwide, yet many regions face significant challenges in maintaining and improving this critical resource. In Norway the aging infrastructure is a pressing concern. Many of the pipes, treatment plants, and reservoirs were built decades ago and are now deteriorating. This leads to frequent leaks and bursts, causing substantial water loss and increasing maintenance costs. Additionally, aging infrastructure poses a risk of contamination, threatening the safety of our drinking water.

Climate change adds another layer of complexity to water management. The unpredictability requires more resilient systems to ensure water security.

Further, cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly critical issue. As water infrastructure becomes more digitized, it becomes vulnerable to cyber attacks and to the cascading effects to the service provided. Protecting water systems from these threats is essential to ensure their reliability and safety.

Adopting new technologies can significantly improve water management. Advanced technologies like smart sensors for leak detection, real-time monitoring systems, and efficient water treatment methods can enhance the reliability and efficiency of water systems. However, defining a digitalization strategy is crucial. This strategy should not be limited to installing smart solutions but should have the human knowledge at its core to convert data into information for decision making and it should also include comprehensive planning, cybersecurity measures, and integration with existing systems to ensure seamless operation and security.

Building resilient infrastructure capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change is another priority. Climate risk assessments should be integrated into the planning and construction of water infrastructure projects to ensure long-term sustainability.

Community engagement and education are also crucial. Educating communities about water conservation and sustainable water use can foster more responsible behavior. Public awareness campaigns and involving local communities in water management decisions can make a significant difference.