Opinion: The future of water - less ownership, more collaboration
As we emerge from Covid-19 pandemic, there will be a re-balancing of investment in assets and how we manage them, predicts Mark Kaney.
Adjusting to the New Normal
As we emerge from Covid-19 pandemic, social living and working patterns will change for the long term. Less demand for office working will lead to more people moving from cities out into less urban spaces
This will place greater demands on assets serving smaller populations and less on large expensive assets optimised to deal with higher demand. The result?
A re-balancing of investment in assets due to changing demand, risk and companies needing to re-plan their investments in the coming years. There will also be a need to re-optimise the current asset base to meet these evolving needs, while not incurring too much additional cost or taking on more risk.
Renewed energy in sustainability and climate responsibility
With US president Donald Trump stepping aside for Democrat leader, Joe Biden, the US will move back to a more socially responsible stance on climate action. Alongside preparations for COP26, nations will look to make more solid or more stretching commitments. We will see increased drive towards the net zero targets for the water industry and the speed at which innovation needs to be unlocked increase.
“Our position on sustainability and resilience will broaden as we explore natural capital approaches and the need to think differently about value.”
Our position on sustainability and resilience will broaden as we explore natural capital approaches and the need to think differently about “value” will drive strategic choices around service and performance.
Less ownership, more collaboration
Water as a service will not go away. The need for water companies to own all the assets and the intellectual property (IP) around new ideas will become more unnecessary. Downward pressure on municipal budgets and challenging OPEX (operational expenditure) targets will mean that the view may shift to a more “as a service” driven model. Furthermore, the role for partners to provide operation and maintenance services may become more prevalent.
Opinions on IP ownership for innovation will start to shift and the water markets will, as a result, allow more companies to engage and drive innovative solutions quicker for customer benefit.
“Supply chain procurement and commercial teams will have to catch up with a changing business model.”
Supply chain procurement and commercial teams will have to catch up with a changing business model and a different demographic of companies and solutions/services. This will lead to a more resilient and effective “water sector” that leverages the value from all the contributing organisations equally to the benefit of customers and the environment.
Digital twins enabling repeatable decisions
As the development and adoption of tools such as Digital Twins enable us to learn, organisations will gain greater clarity on key decisions. Information and insight that is required to make them will be repeatable, explainable and consistent.
“Moving to cyber physical workforces with blended teams of human experts and AI will help us to de-risk the “greying” of the industry.”
Moving to cyber physical workforces with blended teams of human experts and expert trained AI will help us de-risk the “greying” of the industry and the loss of experience and expertise we are seeing with far fewer equivalent replacements available.
As these systems and ways of working become more pervasive in our industry, further standardisation will occur leading to the ability to create “systems of systems”.
As different asset systems become interoperable, further efficiencies will be unlocked and more holistic management of risk, resilience and sustainable service provision will occur.
The industry can then evolve further to enable true water lifecycle management, bringing together resources and solutions from both regulated and non-regulated (including industrial) water users and managers.
Overall, this will drive more efficient and effective use of this scarce and valuable resource aligned to societal value and sustainable practices.
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