Water Industry – Ageing Infrastructure Poses Challenges

Water Industry - Water Management

Aging infrastructure poses challenges in the water industry. Black & Veatch Strategy Report indicates that Data Analytics, Infrastructure Modernisation and Customer Education will be crucial in solving these challenges

Aging infrastructure in the water industry is posing a massive challenge according to a report from Black & Veatch, an engineering consultancy firm.

A different approach to business as well as new investment in the water industry will be essential in narrowing the gap between what consumers expect and what the services actually cost.

The report was released on June 6th 2017 and also highlights the importance of sustainability operations and for water industry leaders to be able to adopt a broad range of strategies.

A number of findings in the water industry report have highlighted some key details:

  • 55% of water utilities say that copper and lead corrosion in distribution systems has not been a problem, despite the public protesting
  • 49% of survey respondents are from communities of 2 million+ people and the water industry survey indicated that integrated planning trends higher amongst larger communities with the acceptance rate falling as the community becomes smaller
  • 47% of survey respondents agreed that water companies should be more efficient with costing’s whilst they also understand the need for higher price rates
  • 40% of survey respondents stated that data analytics were not part of the operations but fit into the business processes
  • 30% of utilities have advised that they have plans to input advanced technology e.g. enterprise asset management or advanced metering
  • 20% stated that data analytics fit into strategic planning but not current processes

Preserving and broadening the longevity of assets in the water industry was the top sustainability issue for water utilities. Many of the survey respondents expressed large interest in collating all data from systems (currently in siloes) to provide economies of scale for the water  industry, which in turn would lead to more intelligent asset management and becoming more operationally efficient.

The report highlights that water providers are more focussed on moving forward in a sustainable manner rather than follow finance-driven ideas.

This relates to the fact that consumers as well as government are generally becoming more willing to conform to rate increases if this leads to critical infrastructure improvements being carried out.

This has also led to a higher level of confidence in funding from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The report also looks at other important water industry issues:

  • Cyber Security
  • Physical Security
  • Enterprise Asset Management Trends
  • Financial Strategies

A number of high-ranking executive level individuals from Black & Veatch had comments on the arising issues:

Cindy Wallis-Lage, President of Black & Veatch’s water business:

“Sustainability has different meanings to different segments of the water industry. We pursue sustainable water supplies that can serve residents for decades to come. We look for ways to become more economically sustainable by balancing system and user needs with available capital. At the same time, we pursue a kind of social sustainability by engaging consumers as full partners in the pursuit of a supply that’s safe and resilient against weather events and long-term climate change.”

“Sustainable and resilient systems will depend on water industry leaders who can both collaborate and innovate as the water sector attempts to modernise its assets, optimise existing resources and convince customers that upgrades are important.”

Mike Orth, Executive Managing Director for the Americas in Black & Veatch’s water business:

“Data analytics provide new levels of system intelligence that can address many of the problems hampering sustainable water supplies. Smart meters and new software-based management tools enable us to turn all the water industry data into understandable, useful insights that can address everything from water safety, asset performance and leak detection, to integrated planning and energy efficiency.”

 

Ralph Eberts, Executive Managing Director for Black & Veatch management consulting:

“Proactive, two-way engagement can help convey water’s true value to the community. This deliberate focus on the customer experience can change cost and water quality perceptions and help secure the rate increases needed to upgrade ageing infrastructure in the water industry.”

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