Education, barrier removal, regulations, & standards are some of the policy options to help promote adoption of digital water solutions
As water utilities begin to explore digital solutions as a conduit to water and energy sustainability, GE Water & Process Technologies released a white paper titled, “The Future of Water Management: A Menu for Policymakers in the Digital Industrial Era.” The paper showcases how digital water solutions are proving their potential to transform the way utilities manage water treatment, distribution and usage and provides guidance for governments looking to accelerate the adoption of these solutions.
Authored by Jon Freedman, leader of global partnerships and policy for GE Water & Process Technologies, and by Geoffrey Dietz, a R. Michael Gadbaw Global Law & Policy Fellow supporting GE’s Global Governmental Affairs and Policy team, the white paper presents the major types of policies that promote adoption of digital water solutions. These policies include education and outreach; barrier removal; incentives; and regulations and standards—offering a menu of policy options to help governments address their water resource and infrastructure needs through digital solutions. The paper also highlights examples of how various cities and countries around the world are beginning to adopt digital water solutions and technologies.
“With many utilities embracing the Industrial Internet to address acute water infrastructure challenges, this paper provides a valuable starting point for governments to evaluate the appropriate mix of policies that will best fit their respective needs,” Freedman said. “The white paper shows that a broad range of policies promoting the use of digital water solutions are being effectively implemented worldwide.”
Key takeaways from the paper include:
- Education and outreach are generally perceived as critical to advancing digital water approaches, not only to encourage their adoption but also to overcome public skepticism. Techniques outlined in the white paper include recognition awards and certification programs and strategic communications and education initiatives.
- Barriers to digital water management and technology adoption come in several forms including regulatory, financial, human capital and lack of collaboration and information sharing between organizations. The white paper discusses options frequently used to remove barriers such as new mandates and reporting mechanisms, improved financing models, public-private partnerships and the incorporation of digital water management into existing Smart City initiatives.
- Financial incentives have had success in facilitating changes in utility operations, as well as public attitudes, regarding digital water adoption. Governmental incentives most commonly take the form of subsidies, grants and tax breaks. Public banks and infrastructure funds also can play an important role in providing low interest loans and investment, which incentivize digital water adoption.
- Robust data security regulations and standards play a crucial role in advancing the adoption of digital water solutions. The white paper shows how promoting open standards, data democratization and transparency, as well as safeguarding cybersecurity and balancing data privacy, are critical policy mechanisms.