Wasteful consumer behavior is biggest barrier to meeting water demands, study finds


Rodger Smith,
Senior VP,
Oracle Utilities
Portland, OR, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — October 25, 2012 – Almost all senior executives from water utilities believe the risk of national water demand outstripping supply is moderately or highly likely by 2030, outlining the need for a significant shift change in the management and production of water supplies, according to a new study from Oracle Utilities.

Further, wasteful consumer behavior – especially in developed markets – is seen as the biggest barrier to meeting future water demands, cited by almost half. Others are low tariffs, which fail to stimulate greater investment, worries over climate change, and in developing countries, a lack of capital for investment.

The “Water for All” study surveyed 244 senior water utility executives across 10 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Russia, Spain, U.K. and U.S.

Half of the respondents believed pricing structures need to be changed to encourage conservation, while almost 40 percent thought water prices must be held down to ensure fair access to water for all. With consumer behavior being the biggest barrier to conservation, it is critical for water utilities to engage with consumers to overcome this challenge.

Almost all respondents stated that they are increasing investment to meet supply challenges, with more than one in five increasing investment by 15 percent or more within the next three years.

Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to a third of developing countries. However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over a third unaware of the innovation options available to them.

Drought and increased water pollution are seen by respondents as the biggest risks faced by water utilities, and are considered the most likely to occur. Similarly, half of respondents polled felt that that information and support from government bodies is lacking; while 43 percent recognized they must develop their management techniques to more precisely model future water availability or rainfall.

“The threat of global climate change has galvanized governments, organizations and citizens around the world to re-imagine our lives in ways that contribute to long term sustainability. Nowhere is this focus on sustainability clearer than in water utilities,” said Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Utilities. “It is clear that maintaining adequate water supplies will require actions from every stakeholder including customers, governments, environmental groups, regulators and utilities themselves. Communication and comprehensive consumer education will be critical to success.”