More than half of water utility leaders have yet to embrace innovation and risk missing out on important “sustainability dividends,” according to “Empowering Water Utility Innovation,” a new Arcadis U.S. Inc. report released ahead of last month’s American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia.
Arcadis, a global design and consultancy firm for natural and built assets, surveyed 423 utility professionals across 82 urban water utilities and discovered that only 40 percent engage innovation as a business practice. The report further points to stormwater harvesting, advanced metering and real-time system monitoring innovations as pathways to generating sustainability dividends—equating to greater revenue capture, improved demand management, waste reduction or increased asset longevity, to name a few.
Arcadis North America Delivery and Innovation Lead Jason Carter examines how innovation yields measurable return on investment while resulting in social, environmental and economic benefits; in turn, they strengthen a utility’s brand, bottom line and satisfaction ratings to ultimately improve customers’ quality of life. “By building a culture of creativity, investment, experimentation and incubation, utilities can deploy innovation to foster new approaches to serving customers, managing facilities and funding infrastructure improvements,” he observes. “Innovation enables utilities to effectively engage internal and external resources to continuously improve operations and increase value through system resiliency, efficiency and quality—the three elements of water sustainability.”
|The report is posted at www.arcadis.com. Citing the Water Research Foundation, authors present eight key disciplines of innovative utilities.|
“Empowering Water Utility Innovation” provides a framework comprising eight disciplines for creating a culture of innovation, such as focusing on defining challenges that guide investment; engaging stakeholders in transformative programs; reaching out to external resources; and, communicating success. It builds on the Water Research Foundation and Water Environment & Reuse Foundation’s recent 190-page industry guidance manual, “Fostering Innovation Within Water Utilities,” for which Carter served as principal investigator. — Arcadis US Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colo., www.arcadis.com
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCE CANDIDATES
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program has received ‘letters of interest’ from prospective borrowers in communities across 19 states, each seeking to partner with the agency to invest in local water supply or wastewater treatment and conveyance projects.
“The infrastructure needs of our nation and communities are broader than just roads and bridges,” says EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Improvements are needed to address drinking and waste water infrastructure, and EPA’s WIFIA program offers opportunities to provide credit assistance to spur innovative investments.”
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the federal loan and guarantee program aims to accelerate investment by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. WIFIA’s $25 million in fiscal 2017 funding supports $1.5 billion in loans and up to $3 billion in projects to repair, rehabilitate, and replace aging water treatment plants and pipe systems, and construct new desalination, water recycling, and drought mitigation works. Combined with programs such as EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) loans, private equity, revenue, and municipal bonds, WIFIA loans could address over $12 billion in infrastructure needs across the country.
EPA received over 40 letters of interest from cities, counties, towns and businesses in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. The agency is currently evaluating project eligibility, credit worthiness, engineering feasibility, and alignment with WIFIA criteria. Through a competitive process, EPA will select projects it intends to fund and invite their proponents to continue to the application process this summer. — www.epa.gov/wifia