Water Journal : Water Journal August 2014
27 Interview AUGUST 2014 WATER How similar are the water issues Australia faces to those of the UK? And what do you see as the main differences? Of course there are differences in terms of population size and distribution and climate, but the issues are fundamentally the same. Population growth, resilience of services to climate change events, long-term sustainability and ageing infrastructure all have to be dealt with, while at the same time keeping customer bills affordable. The main difference is water utility ownership approach. In 1989 the UK moved on the privatisation of the water industry in England and Wales and this has driven huge developments in terms of asset management and ef ciency. Fundamentally it is not about privatisation; it is about an approach to water services and some of this experience is very relevant to Australia. In contrast, some of the customer approaches adopted in Australia, to some extent driven by the previous drought situation, are world-leading and highly transferrable to the UK. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the Australian water industry? Two words: operational ef ciency. If water companies aren't seen to be ef cient and effective, they won't be in business. It's as simple as that. In the current urban water sector, with the 10-year drought behind you and water storage now up around 70% in capital cities, the focus is now on maintenance and operating expenses rather than major capital expenses. Shareholders (state governments) want more return on investment -- rates cannot be put up too much, so business needs to get smarter at maintenance and operating expenses. In the UK we have had a big push for many years now to drive operational ef ciencies through better asset management and operating regimes. There are learnings Australia can bene t from out of the UK because our water industry regulatory model was established in 1989, whereas in Australia corporatisation happened in the mid-90s, so we are a few years ahead of you ... and we didn't have a decade-long drought to contend with! I came to Australia three years ago to talk about this very issue, but the industry was still in delivery mode and not quite ready to hear it. Now project delivery isn't as urgent on the agenda and companies are realising they need to do more for less on expenditure. Expenditure in Australia will still be in the billions of dollars, but that is down from the tens of billions spent on issues brought on by drought. Today's spend will be on rehabilitating or maintaining existing assets and nding clever ways of using data and analytics to improve operating ef ciency. LET'S TALK ABOUT WATER MWH Global's UK-based director of global strategy, David Smith, recently spent a week in Australia meeting heads of the water sector to discuss the challenges the industry faces in Australia. In this interview, he talks about the synergies between the two countries and offers insights into issues such as operational ef ciency, customer education and global water information sharing. Retro- t of real time monitoring and control systems at wastewater treatment works in the UK resulted in 30% saving in energy costs, 20% saving in chemical costs, and increased robustness and service levels while avoiding expensive additional capital investment.
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