Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the 2015 US China Smart Manufacturing Summit in Washington, DC. I was the lead speaker on the water panel. My presentation topic was “The Challenges to the American Water Industry.” We need a strategic national plan to address these challenges. There is no silver bullet or simple solution. It is a convergence of solutions:
- Financially strapped municipalities. This can be solved through a $400 billion US capital commitment over a 10 year period.
- Aging infrastructure. Our American water infrastructure was built over 70 years ago, as noted in my last article, “JFK’s Famous Water Quote: A Brief History.”
- Water scarcity. More difficult to solve but can be accomplished through emerging metering technologies and conservation. Btw, water conservation is not a solution for rate payers.
- Emerging contaminants. Contaminants of Emerging Concern.
- Operational efficiency. Difficult to implement with legacy workforce issues.
- Advanced treatment technologies. Energy efficient wastewater treatment significantly reduces the energy requirements. Additionally reduce/eliminate the amount of additional carbon required for denitrification.
- Energy efficiency. Enhanced use of smart grid. ENBALA Power Network interfaces the electric grid with SCADA systems.
- Automation. Enhanced use of smart metering systems. Data analytics for stopped meters, continuous running meters and backflow. We will begin to see the commoditization of meters.
- Environmental concerns/stewardship. The water industry believes they are the trusted steward of your precious resource—water.
- Security. America needs to do a complete examination as it relates to water utilities.
- New environmental regulations. Every year for the past 10 years the Senate has proposed legislation known as Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).
- Customer satisfaction. Water utilities need to embrace 21st century social media in regard to the environmental concerns of their customers.
Why such a long list? Because of the fragmented, decentralized regional nature of America’s water utilities. For example, in China, they have one water authority in multiple parts of the country that service 30 million customers. In the U.S. we have a system where one water authority services one city for a population of 50,000. In America we have 5,000 water utilities. Our lack of a water grid does not allow us to implement changes across all American water utilities.
Innovation has arrived and I am seeing 20 new water technologies per month. One of the positive results of the California drought is the increase in the number of patents filed for water technologies.
In 2015 emerging water technologies are being invented at a record rate. The use of data analytics is booming. IOT will transform the water industry. What is keeping America from moving forward? Number 1 on my list, financially strapped municipalities. Invention and innovation in the water industry is not holding America back.
Mr. Caprio is the founder and executive director of the Water Innovations Alliance Foundation (WIAF). As the executive director of WIAF, Mr. Caprio writes a regular column for GE’s Our Water Counts blog. Mr. Caprio is the founder and event director of the Water 2.0 Conference series, with the next event being held on November 18, 2015, in Washington, DC. Mr. Caprio is one of the foremost advocates for government funding of emerging technologies at both the state and federal levels. Mr. Caprio has testified before Congress and the state legislatures of New York and Connecticut, and he has been an invited speaker at over 100 conferences.
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