News | July 11, 2012

Water Research Foundation Report Forecasts Future Trends That Will Impact The Water Utility Industry Over The Next 20 Years

The Water Research Foundation (WaterRF) has published a research report that will help water utilities better understand what the future may hold. Forecasting the Future: Progress, Change, and Predictions for the Water Sector (project #4232) identified and analyzed social, political, economic, environmental, and business trends that are expected to influence the water industry over the next 20 years.

In the report, trends were divided into four broad categories: (1) Environmental, (2) Technological, (3) Economic/Business, and (4) Societal/Political. They were reviewed in terms of their range of certainty and prioritized by levels of impact to identify key trends to watch, which include:

1. Uncertain Economy, Financial Instability
2. Decreased Availability/Adequacy of Water Resources
3. Aging Water Infrastructure/Capital Needs
4. Shifting Water Demands (Per Capita Reduction)
5. Changing Workforce, Dynamic Talent Life-Cycle
6. Expanding Technology Application
7. Mass/Social Media Explosion
8. Increasing/Expanding Regulations
9. Efficiency Drivers, Resource Optimization
10. Climate Uncertainty

Potential strategies to manage and even take advantage of these trends were also developed by analyzing each and determining the possible range of impact from a low impact scenario to a high impact one. The strategies address the trends in a broad, multi-faceted manner rather than in a narrow approach.

The report analyzes research data and the top trends to develop a desired vision of the future for the industry. Known as the “Water Sector Blueprint,” it provides key strategic imperatives, or priorities, for the water utilities industry to pursue in order to attain the desired future.

The seven key imperatives include:

1. Communication: Multi-Faceted Engagement
2. Collaboration/Partnerships
3. Total Systems View
4. Rate Making/Financing
5. Applied Technology
6. 21st Century Leadership Skills
7. Adaptive Planning

In addition, the report includes an overview of the WaterRF’s “Strategic Planning and Organizational Development” project that is designed to help utilities develop or change their strategic plans. Such a planning framework is instrumental for individual water utilities as they continue to aim for improvement over the next 10 to 20 years.
“With water becoming an increasingly scarce natural resource, it is important to understand the issues that are going to impact our industry in the years to come,” said Rob Renner, Executive Director of the WaterRF. “This issue affects everyone on one level or another. Given the useful information produced through this report, the drinking water utility industry will be better prepared to plan accordingly and anticipate future challenges.”

The full research report and supplemental materials can be found at

About The Water Research Foundation
Founded in 1966, the Water Research Foundation is an international, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the public. With more than 1,000 subscribers who provide water to 80 percent of the U.S. population, the Foundation has funded and managed more than 1,000 projects. For more information, go to

SOURCE: The Water Research Foundation (WaterRF)