Economist Intelligence Unit: Waterless in 2030?

(via: Water Efficiency Journal)

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (sponsored by Oracle) reveals that if water utilities plan on meeting water supply, large-scale infrastructure investments must be made—or else demand will outstrip supply by 2030.

The study, entitled “Water for All?”, compared the water resource management strategies of 10 countries—the US, Canada, UK, Australia, France, Spain, Brazil, Russia, India, and China—and surveyed 244 water utility managers and executives, including 20 “in-depth” interviews with water executives and independent experts. The participants’ answerers led researchers to conclude that while water providers are optimistic about their ability to meet future demand, that ability will be amplified or hampered by government action and consumer education. And all water purveyors will have to “think outside the box.”

“The leading overall response to water stress in the future is expected to be a sharp focus on demand management,” explains a statement released by Oracle in relation to the report. “This represents a shift in utilities’ traditional emphasis on continuing to supply increasing quantities of water in response to increasing demand.”

Meanwhile, developing countries have a tougher row to hoe. The study’s survey of water resource management strategies in the developing world reveals that climate change and erratic weather patters will increasingly influence the creation and maintenance of infrastructure in those countries.

“Utilities in the developing countries, in contrast, are more likely to focus on rolling out or expanding basic infrastructure,” states the report.

Other key findings:

* Increased water stress by 2030. Due to growing demand for water, caused by increasing populations, changing climate patterns, and wasteful consumer behavior, 39% of executives surveyed believe that the risk of national water demand outstripping supply by 2030 is “highly likely,” while 54% believe such a risk is moderately likely. Failure to address this could result in significant economic, social, and health implications.

* Barriers to conservation. Forty-five percent of utilities—especially in developed markets—see wasteful consumer behavior as their biggest barrier to progress, while another 33% believe tariffs are too low to stimulate greater investment. In developing countries, a lack of capital for investment tops the list (41%), while worries over climate change stand third overall (34%).

* Encouraging consumer engagement. Half of respondents (49%) believe pricing structures need to be changed to encourage conservation, while under four in 10 water utilities think water prices must be held down to ensure fair access to water for all (38%). With consumer behavior being the biggest barrier to conservation, it is critical for water utilities to engage with consumers to overcome this challenge.

* Increased investment. Almost all respondents stated that they are increasing investment to meet supply challenges (93%), with more than one in five (22%) increasing investment by 15% or more within the next three years.

* Innovative industry. Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one-fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to one-third of developing countries. However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over one-third (36%) unaware of the innovation options available to them.

* Stumbling blocks. Drought and increased water pollution are seen by respondents as the biggest risks faced by water utilities, and are considered the most likely to occur. Similarly, half of respondents polled felt that that information and support from government bodies is lacking; while 43% recognize they must develop their management techniques to more precisely model future water availability or rainfall.

 

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