The Era Of Cheap Water May Be Ending

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, Water Education, Water pipes, Water Strategies
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Article courtesy of Sara Jerome| September 25, 2015 |Water Online |Shared as Educational Material

Image credit: “shadow of smart meters,” zeeweez© 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

Is it the end of the era of cheap water?

The Guardian recently reported: “Historically water has been cheap and the full costs of producing and piping it to homes and businesses haven’t been reflected in their bills. Instead, water utilities have funded rising expenses by issuing bonds or raising taxes. Sometimes utilities, especially those with publicly elected boards, defer the maintenance of their equipment because raising taxes or rates is unpopular with voters.”

But updating outmoded infrastructure and securing access to new water sources amid scarcity and drought are expensive tasks. These efforts are pushing rates upward. “In fact, residential water rates in 30 major US cities increased faster than the cost of almost all other regular household expenses in 2014,” The Guardian reported.

Gary Wong, a principal at OSIsoft, which makes water analytics software, explained how the value of water is shifting in the public eye.

“Water has been neglected because it’s taken for granted,” he said, per the report. “As the price of water increases or the scarcity increases, people are paying more attention to it.”

An offshoot of these shifts: The market for water-efficiency tech is heating up. Global Water Intelligence reported: “The rising cost of lost water is opening up new opportunities for smart technologies in the global water sector. Companies who can provide solutions to the problems of excessive leakage, inaccurate billing and network inefficiency can tap into a rapidly growing market worth $3.6 billion in 2013.”

Water monitoring technology is hardly a new field. “Many heavy water users, such as mining companies, chipmakers or soft drink producers, have long investigated ways to reduce wasteful consumption or increase water availability, says Peter Williams, chief technology officer of IBM’s energy and environmental technology unit,” The Guardianreported.

The new thing is that medium and small companies are seeing the importance of water tech, as well. “As the cost of water increases, there is a growing financial imperative for medium-sized companies to also invest in water monitoring technologies,” the report said.

Apana, a company that makes sensors, telemetry equipment, and data analytics software, is one company benefiting from this trend. “Apana is the brains behind Costco’s software and sensors. After operating for two years under the name Kirkland Analytics, Apana is relaunching under a new name and with a story about how customers like Costsco have been quietly using its product to cut water use,” Fortune recently reported.

Apana CEO Matt Rose explained why this technology is important for a range of companies.

“Ninety-nine percent of building owners use water bills as a water management tool,” Rose adds. “If your water bill doubles, where do you look for problems? You want to catch it on the spot instead of learning it a month or two down the road.”

For more stories about communicating the value of water, visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.

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