Waco City Council
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Service providers develop best practices  water utilities
One trillion gallons of water is wasted annually in the US alone, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency

Water technology vendors need to develop a set of best business practices to better serve utilities to take advantage of modern IT solutions, according to global  consulting firm IHS TechnologyResearch.

According to IHS Technology at the 27th annual Utility Management Conference, analysts reported there was one reccurring theme which highlighted the responsibility of  "technology vendors to understand the common issues that water utilities face and alter the way they communicate with utilities to maximize their value to the industry".

The annual Utility Management Conference, jointly sponsored by the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation was held in Austin, Texas.

"As global water issues become more severe, water utilities have to adjust to changing demands from their stakeholders. There is an increasing need for collaboration by water utility managers worldwide," reports IHS.

The global research and consulting firm states that technology vendors servicing water utilities tend to treat water and gas utilities similarly to how they would treat electricity utilities. Whilst vendors best practises and business models often apply to water, gas and electricity utilities, their actual needs and capabilities can vary significantly.

Issues facing water executives "are less of technology problems, but rather human ones," notes IHS. The firm adds, "Water utility managers need to innovate their business practises in order to match strategic goals of the organisation in the 21st century."

A water executive present at the conference was overheard saying: "I go power conferences to see what is coming later in the water industry; we are roughly five years behind."

Products and services to address core issues

IHS has identified three to four key issues facing water utilities, which vendors can assist to change into opportunities, improving their processes and maximise the benefit of modern technology.

Among the many challenges facing water utilities, the core issues stifling water utilities is overcomming regulatory hurdels. Water utilities treated and regulated as "monopolies", leaving utilites to operate as they see fit, oftentimes neglecting to  emphasize the true value of the resource. IHS states: "....it is rare that it [water] is sold at its true value, which lowers the incentive to conserve and reduce waste."

Utilities still operate their various departments and divisions in isolation, and  creating a "silo" effect, decreasing the true benefit of data sharing for the utility and customet. A lack of  integration and central control can also lead to a several problems such as "data loss, duplication of efforts, transcription errors and more."

Lastly, water utilities need to update their business practises in order to encourage water conservation, improve revenue potential and reduce unneccessary losses.

IHS concludes: "If outside parties with different incentives can enter the picture and help them improve their processes without doing harm to their overall business, they can achieve very strong results."