The 21st Century Water Utility Initiative is a powerful and innovative approach to help water utilities assess their current operational performance, identify improvement actions and track impact year after year. First success cases suggest that cost reductions range from 10 to 20% within 1–3 years, with improved customer satisfaction. This approach can help water utilities in three ways. First, its benchmarking module focusses on cost drivers at a granular level, not only at an asset level, but also by profit and loss line or activity. Second, it is coupled with onsite diagnostics to understand the causes of underperformance and identify improvement ideas. Third, its transformation programme makes operational changes stick through a combination of measures that address management infrastructure and mindsets and behaviour. In short, the Initiative helps utilities identify improvement potential, seize the prize, and translate it into a transformation programme to drive sustainable implementation. This highly structured, standardised approach addresses the needs of both small and large utilities.