Study Reveals Wasteful Consumer Behavior as the Biggest Barrier to Meeting Demands
Portland, Ore. – Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies Annual Meeting – Oct. 22, 2012
Research released today from Oracle Utilities reveals that four in 10 (39 percent) senior executives from water utilities believe the risk of national water demand outstripping supply as “highly likely,” or essentially certain, outlining the need for a significant shift change in the management and production of water supplies.
The report, “Water for All?,” found that wasteful consumer behavior is seen as the biggest barrier to meeting future demands (45 percent). A third of respondents also stated that worries over climate change (34 percent) and low tariffs, which fail to stimulate greater investment (33 percent), are significant barriers.
The need to address these challenges is prompting innovation in the water sector. Water utilities in both developed and developing nations are deploying technology enabling greater efficiency, such as desalination technology, network sensors and smart meters, which help moderate demand and resolve issues efficiently.
Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the report surveyed 244 senior water utility executives across 10 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Increased water stress by 2030: Due to growing demand for water, caused by increasing populations, changing climate patterns and wasteful consumer behavior, 39 percent of executives surveyed believe that the risk of national water demand outstripping supply by 2030 is “highly likely,” while 54 percent believe such a risk is moderately likely. Failure to address this could result in significant economic, social and health implications.
Barriers to conservation: 45 percent of utilities – especially in developed markets – see wasteful consumer behavior as their biggest barrier to progress, while another 33 percent believe tariffs are too low to stimulate greater investment. In developing countries, a lack of capital for investment tops the list (41 percent), while worries over climate change stand third overall (34 percent).
Encouraging consumer engagement: Half of respondents (49 percent) believe pricing structures need to be changed to encourage conservation, while under four in 10 water utilities think water prices must be held down to ensure fair access to water for all (38 percent). With consumer behavior being the biggest barrier to conservation, it is critical for water utilities to engage with consumers to overcome this challenge.
Increased investment: Almost all respondents stated that they are increasing investment to meet supply challenges (93 percent), with more than one in five (22 percent) increasing investment by 15 percent or more within the next three years.
Innovative industry: Prompted by necessity, the water sector is becoming an increasingly prominent innovator, due to the implementation technologies such as smart meters and desalination solutions. For instance, one fifth of water utilities in developed markets regularly evaluate new technologies, compared to a third of developing countries. However, more water utilities must improve their ability to identify and implement such advances, with over a third (36 percent) unaware of the innovation options available to them.
Stumbling blocks: Drought and increased water pollution are seen by respondents as the biggest risks faced by water utilities, and are considered the most likely to occur. Similarly, half of respondents polled felt that that information and support from government bodies is lacking; while 43 percent recognize they must develop their management techniques to more precisely model future water availability or rainfall.
“The threat of global climate change has galvanized governments, organizations and citizens around the world to re-imagine our lives in ways that contribute to long-term sustainability. Doing so is challenging us to reprioritize issues, rethink business plans and reconsider the relationships between people and resources. Nowhere is this focus on sustainability clearer than in water utilities,” said Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Utilities. “From the ‘Water for All?’ report findings, it is clear that maintaining adequate water supplies will require actions from every stakeholder including customers, governments, environmental groups, regulators and utilities themselves. Communication and comprehensive consumer education will be critical to success.”
“The threat of water scarcity is not an insurmountable challenge, but to overcome it, water utilities will need to make much more productive use of water available and better educate their customers about its value. Fortunately there are innovations in technology and process being implemented in both developing and developed nations to help make this a reality. We need to see water utilities, governments and consumers all contribute more to address these concerns in the coming years,” said Brian Gardner, senior editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The Economist Intelligence Unit is the business–to–business arm of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist newspaper. As the world's leading provider of country and business intelligence, the Economist Intelligence Unit helps executives make better decisions by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis on worldwide market trends and business strategies. More information about the Economist Intelligence Unit can be found at www.eiu.com or follow us on www.twitter.com/theeiu.
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Notes to Editors
Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the report surveyed 244 senior water utility executives across 10 countries – Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. To complement the survey findings, the Economist Intelligence Unit also conducted wide-ranging desk research and in-depth interviews with a range of experts and executives.
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