Several actors have an impact on the quality of drinking water, but ultimately drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs) play a decisive role in ensuring that water quality complies with public regulations. Several developing technologies are combined in water treatment processes. In this paper, we are analysing the technological development of DWTPs in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. The empirical basis is five DWTPs of varying size, and data are gathered through semi-structured interviews with relevant staff inside and outside of the five DWTPs. This study identifies the interplay of factors driving technological development: public regulations, the economic capacity of local DWTP owners together with subsidies from the European Union and national authorities, political priorities by local authorities, and the knowledge network. The paper addressess learning–knowledge–change processes of DWTPs, thereby contributing to our understanding of developing competence in producing drinking water. Generally, large DWTPs are front-runners in introducing new technologies while the smaller ones are lagging. Still, private companies operating small plants on behalf of municipal owners ensure that those DWTPs are part of a wider knowledge network, aiding to introduce a necessary and cost-effective upgrade to treatment steps

  • Drivers and barriers to technological change in drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs).

  • Differences in learning–knowledge–change processes within a tight knowledge network.

  • Industry 3.0 roll-out of digital processors in water treatment technologies.

  • Development trajectories differ between large and small DWTPs.

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