Arcadis published a report detailing that more than half of water utility leaders globally risk missing out on “sustainability dividends.” For “Empowering Water Utility Innovation,” Arcadis surveyed 423 utility professionals across 82 urban water utilities and discovered that only 40% engage innovation as a business practice, while more than 90% of respondents said it is critical to the future of their utility.
In the report, Jason Carter, delivery and innovation lead for Arcadis North America, reveals how innovation generates measurable ROI while resulting in social, environmental and economic benefits. These benefits strengthen a utility’s brand, bottom line and satisfaction ratings to ultimately improve quality of life for its customers.
The report points to innovations such as storm water harvesting, advanced metering and real-time system monitoring as pathways to generating sustainability dividends. These dividends equate to greater revenue capture, improved demand management, waste reduction or increased asset longevity, to name a few.
“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,” said Carter. “Innovation enables utilities to effectively engage internal and external resources to continuously improve operations and increase value for their customers through improved system resiliency, efficiency and quality, the three elements of water sustainability. Ultimately, it is innovation that leads to sustainability dividends.”
The report provides a “utility innovation framework,” which comprises 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.
The Arcadis report builds on a 190-page industry guidance manual, “Fostering Innovation Within Water Utilities,” which was recently published by the Water Research Foundation (WRF) and Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) with Carter as the principal investigator.
The Arcadis report also provides several case studies, including how three utilities embraced innovation to reap sustainability dividends.