Editor’s note: Fresh water is a hot topic these days because a growing economy will need more for residences, commerce, and industry. The power industry consumes a great deal of fresh water to cool thermal equipment, which is then returned to streams and lakes much warmer than when it came out. The warm water, almost void of oxygen, then encourages growth of algae but not fish. The wind power industry, in stark contrast to the rest of the power industry, uses no water for cooling and so has a great contribution to make to a modern growing economy.
The research firm’s third annual report for the water industry is said to provide essential information for overcoming challenges associated with limited budgets, rising costs, aging infrastructure and the need for critical water systems to have greater resiliency against new weather norms. As we reviewed survey results and prepared this analysis, two common themes emerged. First and foremost, the industry is in dire need of solutions that bridge the significant gaps associated with utility budgets, resiliency, capital improvement programs, customer education and rates.
The second theme focuses on efficiency for all aspects of water system management and operations, including energy use, water use, capital spending and business process enhancements. This theme was first noted in our 2013 report, where more than 90% of industry leaders stated they are adopting, implementing, or planning to adopt or implement best practice asset management programs.
New to this year’s report are regional viewpoints and analysis. While aging infrastructure remains the top industrywide issue, each region has its own unique challenges that are intensified as a result of degrading buried infrastructure systems. Our regional perspectives provide potential solutions for noted challenges based on the viewpoints of Black & Veatch subject matter experts living and working within each region.
Bridging existing gaps within the industry, generating efficiencies and building greater resiliency are the hallmarks of the next-generation water utility. Achieving each of these requires new thinking about how we generate revenue; how we plan and finance capital improvements; and how we manage the day-to-day operations of our systems. This report provides recommendations and highlights best practices that can help utilities achieve their strategic goals. We welcome your questions and comments regarding this report or Black & Veatch services.
Seciton 1: Common issues, different needs
By Ralph Eberts
The United States is rich in geography, climates, natural resources and beauty. The communities that collectively make up individual states are as unique as the habitats in which each are located. Our communities each have unique economic drivers, population trends and opportunities resulting in different priorities and approaches to overcoming challenges. Despite our differences, many similarities remain, particularly as they relate to our water resources and infrastructure.
Aging infrastructure, managing operational costs, availability of funding and managing capital costs remain among the top five industry issues at a national level (Figures 1 and 2). Not surprisingly, these issues are also in the top five issues for each geographic region and population demographic. While the gap between current water infrastructure investment and total need is an area of common concern, the difference is why these issues are pressing needs for communities from California to the Carolinas.
Perennial water scarcity issues within the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions bring intense focus on fixing leaks in aging infrastructure to conserve water resources. In regions such as the Northeast and Midwest, where water is typically plentiful, the drivers for rehabilitating aging infrastructure tend to be based on meeting regulatory requirements and/or improving operational efficiency and resiliency.
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Black & Veatch
Filed Under: News, Policy