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🚰 "Water Infrastructure in 2040"

Water Foresight Podcast

Photo by Bluepikachu / Unsplash

Host: Matthew Klein
Guest: George Hawkins | Founder & CEO | Moonshot Missions
Category: 🚰 Utilities

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:46] “The situation we face today scares the heck out of me. Not that I'm not very optimistic about what we can do in response, but we have systems that are aging. So even if all we were doing was trying to keep what we had in place, […] those are very expensive. […] Second, we have a series of challenges that have become far more extreme, whether it's drought, or flood, or both. That the kinds of extreme weather that our systems have to manage […] are worse and getting worse. So it's not just that we're trying to replace things, outdated material, how do we rebuild or structure our utility so they can function in an extreme weather environment that is becoming more prevailing. And third, the affordability issues, overlay all of that. How can we do it in a way that doesn't make it unaffordable for a large number of the people who we seek to serve?”

[7:38] “What I hope 20 years from now, […] a bunch of entrepreneurial innovative and dedicated both public and private servants in the water sector were able to implement a transformation that has enabled a system, using all sorts of new technologies that is fundamentally cheaper to operate, fundamentally uses less power, fundamentally able to be resilient in extreme weather […]. And that is able to function with a whole new cadre of people who have come in with an expertise associated with these new kinds of technologies in mind. I think we can do that.”

[12:08] “I will make the analogy that this issue is in parallel to how government functions in order to drive transformation and how the utility functions. Because I think they're facing parallel questions […]. I consider the government side of sort of supply, how they're set up to present these opportunities in funds to the marketplace, meaning all the utilities. And then the demand is what are the utilities going to ask for? And those have to align. The government has to be ready to support this certain kind of project. And the utility has to be ready to submit a certain kind of project. And that means work on both ends.”

[20:16] “When I was looking to our capital budget early in my career at DC Water, we would prioritize capital projects. And that's a good idea. […] But the categories is what struck me. The highest category was compliance. […] If there's clear water quality problems in the system or something you do those projects second. Third, if it was directed by the mayor, or the board. And the very last category was good business practices, and it almost never got funded, because there's never enough money for all the projects in the first categories. And I remember asking the team, what is that category, good business practices, because we don't seem to fund it and I don't really hear much about it. And their response was, these are the projects that allow us to run more efficiently and more effectively. But they don't necessarily achieve those other goals directly. And I was quite struck by that. […] So what we did at DC waters, we took that category, and we created a lens through which all the other categories were viewed. So that good business practices, efficiency of business cases had to be submitted for any project in the other categories. It wasn't a standalone, it was a lens through which we looked at our whole capital budget.”

[34:03] “The necessity of the day is going to help. And I've always thought that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. […] And I think every utility in the country is [concerned] with extreme weather and how they respond to PFAS. And what about these backups? And we have affordability issues. And there's tremendous focus appropriately on those questions, how do we make water something that rebuilds our city rather than seems to be a drag on it? That that necessity is just becoming more severe, not less is, I hope, helping to drive this change.”

[50:37] “[There] is the need […] for pre-development in finance upfront. […] There is this great contrast that the utilities that are in underserved communities, smaller communities, rural, don't have a lot of resources, but have the low but have the most opportunities because they have not been implementing [any newer technologies]. It's almost like they can jump to the front of the class […] to the most recent and most effective kind of ami with the digital kind of meter that's available today. So a leap forward. But that won't happen if that utility doesn't have the capability of evaluating and preparing the appropriate design and proposals.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Google | Spotify
🕰️ 1 hr 7 min | 🗓️ 09/22/2021
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