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🔬"State of the Water Industry"

The Future of Water

Photo by Linus Nylund / Unsplash

Host: Reese Tisdale
Guests: Eric Bindler | Research Director, Digital Water | Bluefield Research &
Erin Bonney Casey | Research Director, Municipal Water | Bluefield Research
Category: 🔬 Research

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[8:58] EB: “The thing that really jumped out to me this year’s [20 top challenges] was the juxtaposition of the top issue and the bottom issue. […] Number one was renewal and replacement of aging water and wastewater infrastructure. Number 20 was water loss control. […] And when you think about it, they're really two sides of the same coin. And I've been thinking about this a lot, actually, from a digital perspective, because a lot of the digital solutions for water loss control can also be positioned as asset management for dealing with aging infrastructure.”

[12:29] EBC: “I don't think it was surprising, but it did still stick out to me that emergency preparedness moved up a few spots and listed so high. […] I do think that [2020] underscored […] that there are lots of different types of emergencies. And the pandemic was a totally new type of disruption that really affected the workforce instead of physical assets. The water industry, for a long time, has talked about vulnerability to power outages, to wildfires, but I think this highlighted that there's a flipside to where you have to make sure that your workers are able to continue operations. […] And so, I think it's shifted the way that utilities are thinking about resiliency, that there's it's a multi faceted problem.”

[16:12] EBC: “One of the biggest changes that's happened since November 2020 is the election and the change of administration and the kind of shift of power in Washington […]. There is a clear priority for addressing the lead pipe issue. That makes a lot of sense, because of the attention in the media that lead pipe contamination or lead in drinking water has been getting over recent years. It's also an issue that […] we kind of know how to solve it. It's a question of getting the money to the utilities that need to replace that or lead pipes. But there really is no question about developing new technologies.”

[20:15] EB: “The data collection wrapped up in 2020. […] Since the end of 2020, some major cyber attacks, both in water and in other […] adjacent infrastructure sectors […] [that] are not reflected in the report. […] When you look at that list of top concerns on the report, cybersecurity is number 12 out of 20. There's another data point elsewhere in the survey that says that about 40% of the utilities surveyed have either implemented or at least thinking about cybersecurity […] solutions or protection in one way or another. I would expect that both of those numbers would have changed now […] that cybersecurity is more top of mind now.”

[25:04] EBC: “While this report is really focused on utilities, […] we are seeing that corporations are more engaged in water as well. And so that is everything from trying to improve water efficiencies at their plants, publishing sustainability goals that include a water component, as well as highlighting […] innovative water projects at private facilities. […] So I think there is this sense that water is emerging as a topic of conversation in new circles. […] Water is in the news every day.”

[26:51] EB: “In terms of the digital water market, I think that there's a lot of reason for optimism. […] We were just getting ready to release our most recent quarterly update on the digital water sector. […] Every quarter, we look at data on global project activity for digital water, M&A deals, venture capital investment. And all of those indicators are basically around where they were right before COVID, […] around Q1 of 2020 […] at least in the US and some other […] major European markets. […] [And] Q1 of 2020 were the highest highest numbers we've ever seen for digital water across all of those indicators.”

[28:32] EB: “One caveat that I'd add is […] that we are seeing maybe even more than usual […] the vast majority of that activity happening in […] developed economies with pretty robust vaccine access. So I do think that there's this risk that we're going to see an even greater […] digital divide in the water industry of adoption of digital solutions in North America, in Europe, in parts of Asia Pacific. And maybe not so much in other places that are really still reeling [from] the pandemic that don't have that access to vaccines to allow business to return to normal.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 44 min | 🗓️ 07/27/2021
✅ Time saved: 42 min

Additional Links:
AWWA: State of the Water Industry 2021
Bluefield Research Newsletter: Waterline

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