The annual Black & Veatch Strategic Directions: Water Report explores the issues and complexities impacting today's water landscape. From the terrifying scenario of Day Zero in South Africa's Cape Town to heartbreaking images of Midwestern towns completely flooded out, water remains a challenge for far too many communities around the globe.
The situation will only get more complicated as the impacts of climate change continue to alter the rules of the game. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the planet will warm by an estimated 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of this century, increasing the number and frequency of extreme weather events. This prediction, paired with an expanding global population and increased urbanization, is reason enough for the industry to evolve its collective approach to water.
But new strides in technology offer the promise of transformation, as advanced digital systems inject a much-needed merge of data into water operations across the industry. Big Data and the Internet of Things continue to disrupt legacy processes, introducing new efficiencies and opportunities. Encouraged by this success, more and more water leaders are looking to data to optimize systems and breathe new life into aging assets, changing perspective on asset maintenance, budgets and financial viability, sustainability, planning and resilience.
This year's report dives into these issues – and many more – and provides in-depth analysis by leading industry experts.
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From Internet of Things to Internet of Water: How Integrated Data Can Help Stop "Day Zero"
From scarcity in South Africa to flood control in the United States, many believe that a smarter infrastructure, with data at its core, will be key to overcoming the many threats to our water supply. In its various forms and monikers – from "Digital Water" to "Smart Water" to the "internet of Water" – data has woven itself into the central fabric of our water economy, increasingly driving sustainability, resilience, asset management and planning. Just as industries have embraced the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect technologies and add value to our daily lives, the Internet of Water promises a similar transformation for our water systems.
Utilities Urged to Exploit Data, Use Less Guesswork or "Tribal Knowledge"
Once declared "the world's most valuable resource" by The Economist, data continues to flex increasingly muscle in helping many utilities boost operational efficiency and cut costs. But in the water sector, our survey finds that data remains underused in helping those utilities forge risk-based strategies for asset-replacement investments. Instead, operators and "tribal knowledge" are largely making such calls where data can provide key insights, support justification.
Water Meets "New Energy": Surging Renewables has Utilities Eying Alternative Power Sources
As the nexus of water and "new energy" becomes part of the industry's conversation, water utilities are embracing master plans that focus on optimizing their energy use, which unlike labor and chemical costs, is something they can influence. Making the most of their data is helping that effort, although water-related utilities also are exploring renewable energy – largely solar – as options in deferring their operating costs.
Amid Climate Change Worries, the Question: What to do With Too Much Water?
The heartbreaking televised images of a giant stretch of the Upper Midwest swallowed up by flooding offered a reminder of water's cruelly destructive power and revisits the need to mediate it along inland rivers and coastal areas prone to storm surges and rising sea levels. But as legacy conveyance strategies are put to the test, causing some communities to turn to transformational water infrastructure such as huge tunnels, others are arriving at short-term fixes over long-term resilience.
Rain or Shine: Resilience Needs a Little More Attention
It's been said that Texas suffers perennial drought, broken up by severe floods from time to time. These days, however, Texas isn't alone in its misery. Researchers from Climate Central analyzed 65 years of rainfall records in the United States and found that 40 of the lower 48 states have seen an increase in heavy downpours since 1950. We're talking about the kind of flood-making torrential events that exceed the top 1 percent of all rain and snow days. And droughts are frequent, too. During the second half of 2012, more than half of the land area in the United States suffered from a drought ranked moderate or worse.
The Stormwater Resilience Roadmap: Integration of Delivery Frameworks and Financial Capacity
In an era when climate change, organizational capacity constraints, funding challenges and limited public support continue to test the resilience of a community's stormwater system, images of flooded neighborhoods and arterial streets turned into rivers highlight the urgency for a strategic vision and alternative approaches to stormwater management service delivery. The critical question is whether leaders and managers are exploring holistic alternative approaches that address program planning, organizational capacity, service delivery mechanisms and financing.
Predictive Maintenance Offers Promise in Asset Management
Water utilities the world over are faced with challenges, including of increasing demand, falling revenues and climate change. While building new assets remains part of the solution, enhancing the performance of existing assets is more important than ever before.
The Evolution of Project Delivery: The How and Why
There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks every year in the United States, and those ruptures waste between 14 percent and 18 percent of the nation's drinking water. Aging infrastructure is primarily to blame, as an estimated 40 percent of U.S. water and wastewater pipes are beyond their life expectancy, notes a recent article in WaterWorld. The article goes on to say that half of forecasted capital expenditures by water providers will cover new installations and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure.
Technology, Trading Offer Opportunity for Managing Nutrient Discharge
Nutrient pollution and the resulting excess of nutrients in waterbodies continues to plague aquatic environments around the world, threatening waterways, fish and plant life – and even public health. The runoff of phosphate and nitrogen from farming, stormwater, wastewater treatment plant discharges and other sources into waterbodies continues to unbalance ecosystems, resulting in toxic algal blooms and hypoxic dead zones.
Asia Pacific’s ‘Digital Utilities’ of the Future
In addition to environmental and social challenges, water utilities in Asia Pacific are faced with the complexities of non-revenue water, underdeveloped or aging water infrastructure and growing expenditure. Digital transformation may offer the water industry new opportunity.