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It's Our Water and it's Our Future

It's Our Water and it's Our Future

Around 150 delegates attended three events run by DataCol in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to share information about the state of New Zealand’s water environment. Attendees heard from international experts who presented case studies from around the world discussing the importance of planning a country’s water infrastructure. The seminar series was pitched at thought leaders in the NZ water infrastructure sector with attendees ranging from private contractors, consultants, Council, Local Government to Central Government.

The objective was to create discussion around an alternative future for the New Zealand Water Industry. Speakers included Murray Gibb, Chief Executive of Water New Zealand; David Brooke Smith, Director - Sales Australia and New Zealand (Water & Heat) at Itron; Gavin van Tonder, President of Itron's Water business line; and Bruce Franks, CEO of DataCol Group.

In the Wellington event, Murray Gibb praised the Auckland governance reforms which provided an opportunity for scale economies to be demonstrated in the delivery of water services.

“The stunning economic benefits that rationalisation of water services have brought to customers in the region remain largely unsung.” He concluded that the Government was beginning to take a more active role in water management in this country by enacting a number of new initiatives over the last few years.

“Will these initiatives deliver improved water management in New Zealand? It has been a slow journey so far, but as the saying goes, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. There is a long way to go but we’ve started eating.”

‘Free’ water is very expensive

David Brooke-Smith highlighted the myth that some people believe that water doesn’t cost much to provide and that it should be free.

“The danger of this thinking is that it does not match reality – networks cost billions, consumption based billing drives efficiencies to reduce those billions. At the end of the day the costs for water have to be recovered, and they are recovered from the water consumers.”

“That is exactly what happened in Australia as CAPEX had to be recovered; customers’ bills doubled and in some cases tripled. The average Tariff in Australia is well over $3.00 per m3.”

Australia spent $12 billion in infrastructure - every major capital city now has a desalination plant. The trouble with a desalination plant is that when it rains, the plant cannot be ‘just turned off’. It has to keep producing and that increases costs significantly which are passed on to consumers. In Western Australia, Water Infrastructure accounts for 40% of the States debt, and WA have just recently been downgraded to AA credit rating.

Empower water consumers

Gavin van Tonder spoke about the need to empower everyone involved in the water use cycle, from the public who consume it to the managers and analysts that monitor the network and plan for the future.

“We miss how important consumer engagement is,” stated van Tonder. “What do they get out of this? How about greater consumer confidence and interaction?”

Gavin emphasised that information from the data collected on water use and network health was the best way to give control back to the public but it also helps utilities keep a better eye on the entire network.

“If data sensors are indicating high pressure in a specific part of the water network, utilities will have the ability to make decisions around whether to adjust pressure or perform remedial maintenance to avoid potential damage.”

Bruce Franks, who initiated and organised these events, was thrilled with the overall turnout and the discussions it generated.

“It was fantastic to see people from so many different disciplines within the water sector come along to listen and contribute to the future of our water infrastructure.”

“It was interesting to hear the range of diverse opinions from the north to the south of the country. Good points were made all around which made for, at times, some quite lively debates.”

“With the large disparity in per capita consumption across NZ’s towns and cities, the debate on what this is costing is intensifying.”

“If you’re using meter consumption data for billing purposes only (or not all), chances are you are missing out on valuable information. Instead, use the increased range of readily available data metrics from one common ‘Source of Truth’ across the entire organisation and make quality customer-centric decisions on water networks. If you do this, it will improve service delivery and potentially reduce costs for you and your customers.”

“Water is so important to us, not only for our well-being, but also for our economy. We need to make sure it is correctly managed so future generations won’t have to bear the burden of the inaction or mistakes made of those before them,” concluded Franks.


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