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While there are various environmental, financial and social factors that utilities need to take into consideration to develop a resilient water management system, these are the five must-haves for a utility to be successful.

All utilities are facing similar challenges around climate change. This requires the implementation of net zero targets and new, innovative ways to repair environmental damage, as well as the development of technology that protects communities from future dangers.

SUEZ, a leading water and wastewater management solutions company, has recently released its strategic plan for 2027, which focusses on these challenges and the innovations in water and wastewater management that can help solve them. The strategy discusses how local innovation, new technology, community engagement, and new procurement opportunities can increase water efficiency, accuracy, and savings for customers.

Drawing from SUEZ’s partnerships with various Australian utilities, Utility Magazine has created a list of the five steps utilities need to take in order to create the most resilient, reliable water supply system for customers.

1. Invest in Research and Development

Research and development (R&D) can provide economic growth, solutions to future challenges, higher operational efficiency, and is more likely to ensure long-term customer satisfaction for utilities. It is also critical for utilities that are undergoing major upheaval to meet new government renewable targets.

Utilities need to partner with delivery partners who can invest in the research and development of innovative designs and technologies to minimise the impacts of extreme weather events like flooding and droughts. 

SUEZ’s new strategic plan includes a 50 per cent increase in the company’s research and development budget, with the goal of creating circular solutions for water and waste sectors by 2027. Goals like this will enable the company to improve the quality of end-users’ experiences by investing in the development of technology that preserves water by detecting leaks in networks and offering new data on user consumption.

By investing in R&D, utilities can ensure the complete, long-term success of their assets, as well as future-proof against subsequent technology shifts.

2. Prioritise procurement

Once utilities have researched the innovations needed for optimal water asset management, they must then turn these ideas into reliable products and services. Utilities need to procure and deliver the digital, social and sustainable resources that will best serve the particular needs of its customers and stakeholders.

SUEZ’s General Manager of Innovation and Performance, Eric Garcin, said, “Given the droughts and flooding that Australia is facing, the needs of the community are always evolving. Procuring advanced innovative solutions that are well integrated in the overall system ensures that the local environment isn’t going to negatively impact customers in the future and vice versa.

“There’s plenty of other benefits, too. Procuring new designs and resources can lead to more growth and customer satisfaction in the long haul. It helps customers understand where their money is going, and how they can save on unnecessary costs with more advanced and durable solutions. By prioritising procurement, you’re not just designing a new future – you’re cementing a trust between your business and the communities you serve.”

SUEZ’s Head of Smart Metering at SUEZ, Sean Cohen

3. Embrace the Internet of Things

SUEZ’s procurement strategies within its Australian contracts have often involved IoT-connected devices, such as smart meters. Internet of Things (IoT)-connected water management systems have the intrinsic advantage of data analysis.

Sean Cohen, Head of Smart Metering at SUEZ, said, “When implemented correctly, IoT devices offer accurate, reliable, and real-time data of customers’ water networks. You won’t be put on a waiting list to have your water systems checked for leaks – IoT tech like smart meters can detect any faults immediately.”

Smart meters provide utilities with almost instantaneous data insights into network usage. These insights will allow SUEZ to predict faults, quickly repair leaks, provide accurate water bills, and reduce local environmental impacts.

4. Leverage data for customer-centric communication

New innovations – like IoT-devices and smart meters – assist with long-term water management challenges, such as water leaks, which increase customer bills and general dissatisfaction. By monitoring water consumption in new ways, utilities can better prioritise customer needs and provide useful insights to their local communities. 

Customer-centric water management strategies allow customers to understand where their money goes, where their water is coming from, and how faults or repairs may affect their daily usage. 

“Providing end-user information is a critical step towards building a resilient water management system. We’re making sure that communities aren’t paying for something that never even reaches them. Providing this data is creating a new level of trust and accountability for our customers,” Mr Cohen said.

“We never want to cost local taxpayers excess amounts for water that may get lost in faults or leaks. With digital technologies, we can not only keep customers informed, but we can also work with them to repair leaks and pre-empt these kinds of future problems. We can interact with our customers – and solve their needs – in near real-time, with improved accuracy.”

By understanding the unique needs of your customers, utilities can install a digital water system that ensures the most secure, inexpensive and future-proof services.

5. Adopt a holistic approach to sustainability

The last step utilities must take is inherently tied to sustainably managing their assets. This encompasses more than just a ‘green’ approach; rather, requires looking at sustainable asset management through a holistic lens.

Utilities around the world are facing an increasing number of challenges related to the management of their water assets. From climate change and population growth to changing regulatory requirements and stakeholder demands, they must find ways to manage their resources sustainably and responsibly.

One approach that can help meet these challenges is adopting an ESG sustainability approach. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance, and this approach involves considering a wide range of factors that impact the sustainability of their organisation.

In the context of utilities, an ESG sustainability approach involves considering a range of factors related to managing their water assets. This includes environmental factors such as water quality, the impact of climate change on water resources, and the ecological impact of water management practices. It also includes social factors such as stakeholder engagement, social procurement and the impact of water management on municipal, peri-urban and regional communities. Finally, encompasses governance factors such as regulatory compliance, risk management, and the effectiveness of internal controls.

As part of SUEZ’s sustainability roadmap, the company has adopted a three-pronged approach to tackling these issues:

  • Climate: Contributing to decarbonising energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting its most exposed sites to climate change.
  • Nature: Preserving biodiversity and natural resources wherever we operate.
  • Social: Strengthening the positive impact of our activities to ensure the responsible development of communities.

“SUEZ’s approach to sustainability will help utilities identify risks and opportunities when managing their water assets. For example, by considering the impact of climate change on water resources, we can help utilities develop strategies to manage water scarcity and protect against drought,” said Mr. Garcin.

“By engaging with local communities and stakeholders, utilities can better understand the social impact of their activities and identify ways to enhance social value. And by ensuring regulatory compliance and effective risk management, water authorities can improve their governance and maintain the trust of stakeholders.”

“Ultimately, this can help ensure the long-term availability and quality of water resources and enhance the value of water management to all stakeholders.”

Ensuring resilience for future generations

By considering and implementing these five steps, utilities can build a resilient and sustainable water management system for their communities. Investing in R&D, prioritising procurement, using digital technologies and adopting a multi-tiered approach to sustainability can safeguard assets against environmental, economic and social challenges that may arise.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure utilities can have long-term availability and quality of water resources so they can provide manage their assets in the smartest, most sustainable way,” said Mr Garcin.

“It is a complex and ongoing process that requires cooperation and collaboration between government, industry, and communities. By investing in water asset management, we can ensure utilities that we provide a reliable and resilient water supply for their communities – now and into the future.”

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by SUEZ. For more information, please visit www.suez.com/en/australia-new-zealand.

©2024 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved

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