Water is one of the most crucial resources for the sustenance of mankind, the water industry has garnered success so far. The long term view for the water and wastewater industry is likely to be significantly different from today’s water and wastewater sector.
There will be lots of challenges that must be addressed and there will also be opportunities galore for the water industry. In the oncoming years, there will be a large scale transformation of the water industry. The industry will undergo deep and profound changes. The factors that will be driving this transformation are as follows:
- Regulatory requirements – Countries have water regulatory bodies to ensure water conservation and preservation. There is a popular saying in the workplace – ‘’What does not get measured, does not get done’’. Hence it has become crucial for all the countries to track water consumption and usage patterns.
- Rapidly changing climate – Climate is undergoing rapid changes due to the greenhouse effect on the planet. Some regions may become warmer and some regions may become colder. This will lead to some regions becoming wetter and some dryer resulting in floods and droughts in different areas.
- Changing customer patterns – As industries are getting segmented into newer areas, the customer patterns are changing as well leading to a change in the demand patterns. Each industry has its own slated requirements that vary depending on the output produced by the industry as well as its own set of the customer base. Customers are becoming cost-conscious as well as service conscious.
- Digital technology – The advancement of electronics, computers, and software has created pressure on the business processes as well as industrial processes to adopt and embrace automation to a greater extent. The advent of the Internet of Things has resulted in remote operation of industrial devices as well as the remote measurement of parameters.
On the other hand, companies must be able to deal with the following challenges:
- Population growth
- A rising risk of floods
- A rising risk of drought
- Greater emphasis on reducing their carbon footprints
- The need for innovations to improve efficiency
- The need for innovations to satisfy more demanding end customers
This results in the need to ponder as to how the water industry will react to the driver’s cum policy levers that will interact with environmental cum technological changes to shape the water sector.
Two organizations, PwC and Yorkshire Water together have developed six scenarios to describe how the water industry might evolve by the year 2040.
Each scenario sets out a pathway in defining a plausible future.
The six scenarios (not necessarily mutually exclusive) can be enumerated as follows:
- Market forces in action
Policymakers consider the market forces as the first scenario. These forces will be the key to driving efficiency and innovation. The market is dynamically, continuously, and consistently getting re-shaped. This reshaping is accompanied by a core of regulated network monopolies cum licensed/contestable businesses. The value chain in the water industry thus becomes increasingly segmented. This segmentation is due to the increased competition across all parts of the water industry – from raw material manufacturers to finished product manufacturers.
- Community water
Community water will be the second scenario. Community water companies are emerging due to the disruptive weather and society’s desire for sustainable solutions as a result of go-green initiatives being drawn out by the governments.
A policy framework is set up to incentivize local ‘last mile’ water management companies as well as wastewater management companies. Moreover, there is the development of a specialist service industry to support these companies.
- Coordination of the environment
Co-ordination of the environment will be the third scenario. Optimization of water use after drought and floods will need a step-change in the coordination of the environment. Water management will be coordinated by water and wastewater management companies on a catchment basis.
Moreover, there will be companies that will bid to build and maintain flood defenses based on the direction from a central regulating body. This results in the improvement of water supply resilience and reduction of flooding.
- Economies of scale
Economies of scale will be the fourth scenario. There will be a requirement of regulatory cum financial reforms due to the creation of affordability issued by a global recession. By the way of economies of scale, investment is secured at an acceptable price. There will be consolidation of large network water, sewerage management, and flood defense services firms.
- Customers at the center
Customers will form the fifth scenario. Empowered by digital information, customers will demand superior service. This will result in greater choice options of product, service, and tariff. This will finally ensure the development of a vibrant multi-utility water market. Companies will have to categorize customers into groups, produce tailored packages, and offer bundles.
- Smart network technologies
Smart network technologies will form the sixth and final scenario. In-home monitoring and remote control technology will lead to the marriage of water and energy. Customers will use data to decide the kind of services as well as for the optimization of the water bills. Depending on the weather forecasts, companies can decide to reduce or increase flows through the deployment of new smart networks. Such smart networks allow companies to operate responsively and responsibly.
It is not possible to accurately predict the exact direction of the water industry. However, companies can adopt action steps to consider the most likely and possible changes, beyond the market reforms already known to them.
The future will demand stronger coordination cum collaboration amongst the companies in the water industry. There will be enhanced and a newfound focus on digital as well as strategic investments to improve resilience to climate change. One of the crucial developments that will emerge will be the ability to do more with less.
Focus on water usage cum water sustainability will grow as customers become increasingly engaged.
These six scenarios will definitely stimulate the changes water companies will be making presently as well as into the lesser-known future.