Water Journal : Water Journal August 2014
WATER AUGUST 2014 28 Interview You are a keen advocate of water companies "putting the customer at the centre of every decision" they make, right down to every dollar they spend. Why is this so crucial for the industry and what percentage of water companies do you think actually do this? Yes, I am [a keen advocate]. Each customer is important to business, any business. In the UK, we are now putting the customer at the centre of investment decisions as they give their opinion on levels of investment and service versus the cost implication on water bills. As part of our next ve-year asset management plan period, AMP6, it is mandatory that any corporate plan must be endorsed by a customer consultative committee (to the regulatory authority). This approach requires a signi cant change in behaviours across the industry to truly put the customer at the centre. In Australia, while you have been more proactive with the customer, water companies currently "advise" customers what they are doing; they don't actually seek endorsement. Perhaps there is a case for mandatory customer endorsement here as well -- it would certainly ensure that customers are at the very centre of every decision taken. Do you think Australian water companies have educated customers to the right level? I think there's room for improvement. In Australia it costs approximately $1.20 for 1,000 litres of water out of the tap, yet as in many other western countries people still happily fork out double that amount for only 500ml in a plastic bottle. I would say it doesn't make sense, but it does when you realise that the majority of the Australian population doesn't know this. They need to be informed and educated. Recycled water is another issue. Technology has moved on and water can be recycled to the highest standards for a relatively low cost. Right now is the time to educate people about the bene ts of recycled water -- that it can and should be used as many times as possible before you send it for treatment and discharge to rivers and the sea. Now is the time to do this -- while the drought is over; because it will return and it will be a lot easier to convince a population to implement certain measures if they are already apprised of their bene ts. What changes do you believe need to be made in the global water industry? Without a doubt, we need to become better at information sharing. This is the reason I came to Australia -- to share expertise. The more information we share, the greater the bene ts we reap. By 'bene ts', I mean improvements to the industry as a whole. Australia is a leader in many aspects of urban water, especially integrated water cycle management. In a lot of respects, rural Australia is further ahead for drought management than most cities worldwide. Australian water companies need to be sharing their experience of this most recent drought -- the issues they faced, how they overcame them, what measures they have put in place for when the next drought hits because, let's face it, there will be another one at some point. An integrated urban design and development approach can achieve signi cant capital and operating cost savings by naturally attenuating ooding before it gets to pipes and treatment works, as demonstrated by this swale in Upton in the UK. "IN THE UK, WE ARE NOW PUTTING THE CUSTOMER AT THE CENTRE OF INVESTMENT DECISIONS AS THEY GIVE THEIR OPINION ON LEVELS OF INVESTMENT AND SERVICE VERSUS THE COST IMPLICATION ON WATER BILLS"
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