North American water industry faces challenging future


Denver, CO, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — November 4, 2008 – U.S. and Canadian water industry professionals believe that the water sector will be less sound in the future than it is currently, with key issues including the availability of source water as well as business and regulatory factors and infrastructure failure.

These findings from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) latest “State of the industry” survey, for the first time show such a downturn in future expectations. Moreover, for the first time also, source water issues, including the need for conservation and more efficient water use – and both in the near and longer terms – were raised as the top issue of concern.

“Water conservation should be a primary focus of the water industry,” one water engineering consultant was quoted as saying.

The state of the water industry infrastructure, including issues such as leakage, continues as a dominant source of concern. Described as “aging” by many, but also as “crumbling” and “failing” by others, water infrastructure tends to be an “out of sight, out of mind” issue that is relatively inadequately addressed, the survey found. There also was more concern about the infrastructure in the longer term than in the near term, suggesting it will become even more critical over time.

Regulatory concerns continue to be dominated by general concerns about compliance with new regulations, while business concerns include funding infrastructure remediation, and disparities between the cost to produce water and the rates that utilities charge.

Among other critical issues raised, strong feelings about consumer issues continue to make this one of the more emotionally evocative areas. Issues that survey respondents commented on included consumer misconception of the true value of water and their lack of compliance with conservation measures, and many called for greater investment in consumer education.

Looking ahead utilities are expecting to increase capital investment in the sector by about 14 percent in 2009. Distribution system expansion is expected to account for almost half of all capital spent and infrastructure replacement for almost one-third.

Utilities also said that the water efficiency is, and is likely to continue to be, the most commonly used strategy for sourcing water.

“Like most industries in these tough economic times, the water industry will be navigating stormy seas for the foreseeable future,” says the survey authors AWWA communications and marketing director Jon Runge, and market and research consultant John Mann. “The best chance for a brighter future is first, the increased vigilance in the issue areas deemed most essential and inadequately addressed and second, the development of innovative strategies to resolve these issues.”