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🔬 What is Shaping the Water Industry?

The Future of Water

Photo by Alex Jones / Unsplash

Host: John Berryman
Guests: Reese Tisdale | President & Co-Founder | Bluefield Research &
Keith Hays | Vice President & Co-Founder | Bluefield Research
Category: 🔬 Research

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[6:53] RT: “The energy transition is one of my favorite topics, […] because the factors at play are so dynamic. […] The rapid changes across the power landscape are really incredible globally. […] When you look at the global power sector transformation […], you can see that renewables take on a bigger share of the additions going forward to 2050. […] The shift to gas from coal really has already driven water efficiencies across the electric power landscape, shaving water demand through new or more efficient systems that in some cases now include zero liquid discharge.”

[8:39] RT: “The next step [is to] increase renewable capacity that really uses no or very little water […]. We're seeing policies in place that are driving this shift. […] I think the other thing that we see is related to renewables, but also electric vehicles [is] the mining for rare earth metals, that's going to require water for the process in mining. […] So in a nutshell, the traditional focus on water for power, […] in less than a little less than five years, or let alone a decade has changed dramatically, at least the conversation has. And so as a result, we definitely see water playing a key role in all of this.”

[11:42] KH: “We are talking about a global transformation. It's true that Europe was probably ahead of the curve, versus the US in building out renewables. The most European markets, aside from France, are less dependent on nuclear power, which is very water intensive. […] There is a big push to implement circular economy policies in Europe, which would support both recycling but also trying to reuse waste and heat and trying to reduce both the water and the emissions footprint of the power sector. […] In Europe, I think the penetration rate of renewables in some countries now is over 50%, just with wind and solar alone. […] The green hydrogen infrastructure is definitely a hot topic for discussion [and] I think it'll definitely have an impact on the overall profile of water consumption for the power sector in the energy transition.”

[13:09] RT: “It's no surprise that the role of data storage and management is on the rise […] and that also includes water assets, whether it be pumps, SCADA systems, all of these assets across the utility or even an industrial facility water network, include data.[…] So with all the devices comes data centers, and storage and the number of large hyperscale data centers now surpasses over 500. And these are massive, multi million square foot facilities. […] So the growth in these hyperscale data centers really means that there's greater demand for water and our data suggests that water usage […] will increase by 13% by the end of 2021 to about 221 million gallons per day of water usage.

[17:49] KH: “We do see that enterprise software companies, cloud services providers [etc.] are taking notice of water as an opportunity, as another infrastructure sector that requires digital transformation. Now, most leading technology firms are tangentially exposed to water, working with some utilities, looking for some opportunistic sales of their products that they've developed, probably for other industries like power, gas, electricity, transport, but we are seeing some trends starting to emerge amongst three groups.”

[18:27] KH: “The first group [is] cloud services, that's Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google, they're providing cloud services to a lot of water utilities and software firms. And that's a key solutions provider that is managing a lot of data. The second group are enterprise software players that have been around for decades, Oracle, IBM, SAP, that obviously market their public sector expertise or software, their ability to provide a platform for managing a lot of workflows across different departments. That includes enterprise asset management and resource planning, customer management, billing for utilities. And then thirdly, we've got the hardware providers. Here we're talking about Apple or Samsung, which are supplying the devices, smartphones, tablets used by your operations teams. […] Big tech […] may be starting to make more and more acquisitions of specific software capabilities or water utilities. And so we're expecting to see more connected assets and devices that feed into smart cities that are pulling together more holistic customer relationship management.”

[22:37| KH: “We've been talking about big tech and internet of things more oriented towards municipal utility customers. But smart homes and smart cities are also providing additional entry points into water. So there are a selection of big tech firms that are leveraging their established consumer technology positions and brands. They're targeting smart home water management and in some ways, they could in the long term, move customers further away from the centralized utility models, or at least the way that they take more control of their water consumption and their water use within their home.”

[32:42] KH: “Wastewater based epidemiology [is a] pretty hot topic. […] The ability to detect a signal in wastewater and perhaps get an earlier warning on contamination and outbreaks in communities was [widely studied] since the start of the pandemic. Mining wastewater for insights has been something that a number of clients […] have asked about, and […] to the extent that isn't an opportunity to get more data, not just about COVID-19. […] It may be a launching point for smarter cities, meaning looking for other types of contaminants from wastewater or if there was another outbreak to very rapidly have a workflow set up to test for it.”

[37:52] RT: “There is a shift happening in agricultural water management, part of this is driven just through technology solutions. […] Of the three irrigation methods deployed in open fields, drip irrigation systems have grown about 19% since […] 2013. So this transition from what we know is more traditional gravity or sprinkler systems is really being driven by technology innovation, but also climate concerns and operating costs.”

[53:09] KH: “Disruption almost has a different definition in water, because you're dealing [with] drinking water and municipal utilities, [which can pose] a lot of public health risk. So just by nature, you're not looking to shift overnight some fundamental part of the water treatment or delivery process. But […] I think customer management [is where] we can expect to see some shifts happen more rapidly. […] Just in the last three to five years, you see more more transparent billing processes, you've got chat bots on utility websites, you've got a much greater focus on managing customers by using new technologies. And I think there is where you can definitely see some innovation, just in terms of behaviorally, how customers are managed, how they are communicated with, how customers’ data is mined to optimize operations.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "What We Think about… When We Think about Water")
🕰️ 1 hr | 🗓️ 06/15/2021
✅ Time saved: 58 min

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