It has been observed by many that quite often water utilities are trying to replace aging infrastructure from the 20th century or earlier with very similar infrastructure such as central water and wastewater systems.
What if this thinking was turned upside down? What if new, innovative, 21st-century technology could be employed to cut water prices and water infrastructure costs while increasing capacity to drive economic development, business growth, and access to safe water?
These questions, and others are asked in GreenBiz’s thought-provoking article on innovating our way out of water shortages. The author goes on to conclude:
“For the private and public sector to continue to thrive in the face of increased competition for access to water we will need 21st Century strategies. What may have worked in the past will not get us to where we need to be in this century – economic development, business growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 – “ensure access to water and sanitation for all.”
This is not just an opportunity for developed economies but critical for developing economies.”
It is an interesting thought path to pursue, and if it could be done, would enhance the ability of water utilities to make critical upgrades without causing financial issues for consumers or utilities themselves.
Inframanage.com observes that this issue is part of the challenge of managing water, wastewater, and stormwater networks.
Municipalities and water utilities have existing networks, permits, infrastructure and customers to supply within the current requirements of legislation, regulation and contractual agreements.
At the same time a range of new technologies and techniques that are becoming available in the marketplace. Can these be integrated into existing systems, and does this make sense?
This is where good long-term planning around the delivery of services is really important – infrastructure asset management planning.
By looking at service levels, future demand, risks and managing the asset lifecycle a good picture of what is required can be developed.
As part of this planning scenarios can be developed around changes in environmental standards, water availability, permit requirements.
Scenarios can also be developed around changes in technology, and how this can be integrated into current and future networks and service provision.
By undertaking comprehensive, forward-looking planning infrastructure managers can develop clear direction about what is needed, and what will be beneficial to the long-term delivery of service.
Infrastructure asset management planning and thinking then provides a structured framework to test new ideas and technologies with as they come along.
PHOTO CREDIT: Loïc Lagarde via Flickr Creative Commons License.