Water Journal : Water Journal November 2015
2From the President WATER NOVEMBER 2015 DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND THE WATER INDUSTRY Peter Moore -- AWA President In September, along with our Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown, I had the privilege of representing the Australian Water Association at New Zealand Water, the annual conference of our sister organisation Water New Zealand. We were able to meet both their President and CEO and strengthen the relationship between the organisations. At the conference, we attended the President's Dinner and, during a subsequent discussion with the guest speaker, the subject of 'Disruptive Technologies' came up. This topic is what I'd like to address in this column. The energy industry is currently strongly focused on Disruptive Technologies. The rapid rise in photovoltaic cells at domestic level and the likely evolution of battery technology at affordable prices in the near future is set to have a major impact on the industry. An industry that has been built around large generators and poles and wire distribution is about to have its value chain turned on its head. Both utilities and regulators are trying to come to grips with the prospect of assets being stranded and their value being written down signi cantly in a short time. This has all occurred in a few short years. What should we in the water industry think about this? Could it happen to us with equal and unpredicted speed? Many would argue not, but I doubt we have given the topic the focus it deserves. Without calling it Disruptive Technology, I would argue that the water industry has been involved in this debate for some time. For example, we have been discussing and even putting in place distributed systems for Sydney's non-frontal developments. Many buildings now employ internal waste recycling and treatment systems. Further water ef ciency and demand practices, including many hard-wired changes in house plumbing, have changed our usage patterns and deferred signi cant capital expenditure. Wastewater reuse through third-pipe systems has wide support from the public, but many of the proposed systems have either not commenced or are struggling to remain in place. This is often because of the cost of entry into the market and the economies of scale for potable schemes. The community doesn't appear to value the product suf ciently to pay a premium for it. Within all of this there has been relatively little work done on the effects some of these activities will have on existing systems. What is the impact on existing sewer systems if there is a wider uptake of waterless urinals or onsite wastewater treatment? Do existing sewer systems have to be retained as back-up to sewer mining or onsite WWTP schemes in case they fail? How do you size potable water mains where a third-pipe scheme is being provided? Who is responsible for other uses of our potable schemes such as re ghting water? How should these opportunities be priced? These are just some of the issues worthy of debate that I believe would help the industry advance many of what could be considered Disruptive Technologies in the water industry. While there appears to be no particular individual Disruptive Technologies that will have the same impact as photovoltaics are having in the energy industry, I believe we must encourage regulators and policy makers to take up the debate so we are well placed to meet the future challenges before they hit us.
Water Journal September 2015
Current Feb 2016