According to Water utilities of the future—a thought piece from the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities ThinkTank—the ‘water utility of the future’ manages water for life and liveability; it doesn’t just deliver traditional ‘taps and toilets’ services. Specifically, the utility of the future considers customers’ broader expectations (such as liveable communities, environmental health and resilience to climate change). It partners with the public, private and community sectors to develop new business models that provide a broader array of solutions to a more informed community. It influences policy and regulation to redefine ‘business as usual’. And it enhances its customer service culture, efficiency and effectiveness.
Becoming a utility of the future is challenging. There is no ‘standard’ water utility, so there is no corresponding ‘standard’ transition pathway. Each utility will follow its own specific pathway as it becomes a utility of the future.
But research and experience shows water utilities are making this transition to a future ready approach. We use case studies to demonstrate the initiatives water utilities can do TODAY, wherever they are. The examples are Australian, but the lessons are relevant to water utilities around the world. Initiatives include:
- using new technology to improve the efficiency of existing networks
- using smart meters to save water
- diversifying and integrating water sources
- establishing a culture of collaboration and innovation to manage the Millennium drought
- developing new service lines, such as green waste to energy
- involving communities in decision making
- building industry capacity
- partnering with the private sector to overcome constraints to innovation
- striving for more effective regulation
- leveraging economies of scope by bundling services.
The case studies include examples for three types of water enterprises: wholly state-owned enterprises (the most prevalent in Australia); local or regional municipal government owned utilities; and privately-owned water utilities.
This thought piece is the first output from the CRC for Water Sensitive City ThinkTank. The ThinkTank has a strategic focus, to provide information, ideas and advice on how the water industry can address 21st century challenges. It will publish two thought pieces a year, which are based on research by the CRCWSC and its partners, and aim to influence water policy and practice.