I wanted to write this article to give folks an explanation of why our WaterStart Blog is titled, “More, Safer, Cheaper.” This is an obvious reference to the fact that water is becoming scarcer, riskier and more expensive around the world, but it means much more in regard to WaterStart’s business model and how we are helping to address these issues.
As the availability of water declines due to the impacts of climate change and population change, the reliability and the quality of water around the world will continue to be impacted. In time, we will be forced to spend even more money to build new infrastructure as well as change our existing infrastructure. New treatment systems will have to be developed and we will have to change how we deliver water.
All of these initiatives requires significant national resources and leads to the cost of water becoming more expensive around the world. A recent article describes the water and sewer costs exponentially outpacing inflation and wages across the United States. This is a major macro concern when you look at how this could impact our economy.
This gives some insight into the scarcity, risky and expensive water outlook at a macro level, but when it comes to deploying solutions to all of this, these three concepts translate as well.
The Innovation Dilemma
It is difficult to deploy new technology in any sector, but in particular, the water sector. The business model for this sector depends on selling the resource rather than preserving it. With that comes a challenge where utilities have to put innovation and improvement far behind maintenance. Organizations cannot be innovative at the same time as trying to figure out how to run their existing infrastructure with a dwindling budget.
At the same time, it’s very risky for water providers to adopt new technology. Unlike developing a software application or a standalone product, there are public health and safety consequences as well as political risks to trying something new in this sector and having it not work.
Notable examples include the water agency of Tucson, AZ switching to CAP (Central Arizona Project) water for the first time which resulted in burst water mains all over town. or Flint, MI switching water sources in order to save on operating costs with the unfortunate effect of distributing drinking water contaminated by lead. It is risky to try new things in the water sector and it is expensive.
This is why “More, Safer, Cheaper” applies not only to what we hope the outcomes of the technologies we deploy result in (water becomes more affordable, more available and more reliable), but to also make the piloting of these technologies more abundant, less risky and more affordable.
The Innovation Solution
WaterStart has developed our innovation model to accelerate the adoption of innovation with water managers and water consumers. Instead of the full cost of trialing a new solution falling on one agency, risk is dispersed throughout a group of experts, a group of infrastructure owners and group of funding agencies. This approach allows us to share the risks and, just as importantly, the costs to make it more affordable.
By making it more affordable we also help ensure confidence of a strong return on investment. If the full burden of innovation is put on to the infrastructure owner, especially the ones that are public agencies, that makes it more difficult for them to be innovative. If we can share the costs as well as the benefits, we help the entire water sector to access new technologies more readily and reap the long-term benefits of innovation.
That’s why “More, Safer, Cheaper” is the name of our blog and our core theme. We are not just calling out industry problems or cool solutions. We are focused on the deployment of new technology and validating the commercial application of scalable solutions. It is our strong belief that innovation will shape the future of the water for all communities, but we must start now.