Demand for Water will Outstrip Supply by 2030

Posted: Friday 7th December 2012

Study Reveals Wasteful Consumer Behavior as the Biggest Barrier to Meeting Demands.

Research released from Oracle Utilities reveals that four in ten (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 bythe 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.

Research Highlights

· 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.

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