Latest Strategic Directions Report examines role of data analytics and true cost of delivery
Customer education, infrastructure modernization and the use of data analytics will be key tools to overcoming the water industry’s perennial challenges posed by aging infrastructure. A combination of investment and new business process approaches will also be critical to closing the gap between costs and consumer expectation, according to the 2017 Strategic Directions: Water Industry Report.
The report, released today, also addresses the increasing focus on sustainability, as well as the equally diverse strategies used by industry leaders to achieve it.
“Sustainability has different meanings to different segments of the industry,” said Cindy Wallis-Lage, President of Black & Veatch’s water business. “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.”
Maintaining or expanding asset life was named the most significant sustainability issue for water utilities. Survey respondents, however, are showing significant interest in uniting data from once-siloed systems to increase operational efficiencies and inform smarter asset management.
“Data analytics provide new levels of system intelligence that can address many of the problems hampering sustainable water supplies,” said Mike Orth, Executive Managing Director for the Americas in Black & Veatch’s water business. “Smart meters and new software-based management tools enable us to turn all that data into understandable, useful insights that can address everything from water safety, asset performance and leak detection, to integrated planning and energy efficiency.”
The report finds that financial challenges associated with sustainable systems have shifted, with fewer providers selecting finance-driven topics as their top issues on the path to sustainability. This may reflect growing confidence in funding from two important channels: the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and greater confidence that government leaders and customers may be more prepared to accept rate increases as a means to pay for critical improvements.
“Sustainable and resilient systems will depend on industry leaders who can both collaborate and innovate as the water sector attempts to modernize its assets, optimize existing resources and convince customers that upgrades are important,” Wallis-Lage said. The report also examines other issues key to the industry, such as physical security and cybersecurity, trends in enterprise asset management and financing strategies.
“Proactive, two-way engagement can help convey water’s true value to the community,” said Ralph Eberts, Executive Managing Director for Black & Veatch management consulting. “This deliberate focus on the customer experience can change cost and water quality perceptions and help secure the rate increases needed to upgrade aging infrastructure.”
Other key findings include:
About Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch is an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in Energy, Water, Telecommunications and Government Services. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people in over 100 countries through consulting, engineering, construction, operations and program management. Our revenues in 2016 were US$3.2B. For more information, visit www.bv.com.
SOURCE: Black & Veatch