Viable urban areas need access to safe, reliable and a ordable water and sanitation services. Water is critical to all life—it sustains our communities, our economy and the environment on which we depend. Given this, water utilities are a critical part of our cities—delivering services today and helping maintain our future health, wellbeing and prosperity.
But, water utilities around the world are facing signifcant challenges:
- Population and urbanisation are increasing, but the capacity of the planet’s natural capital to provide a cleanandreliablesourceofwaterfor,andtoassimilate the waste and pollution generated by, this growing population is declining.
- A changing climate is creating greater water insecurity, and culminating in greater severity and frequency of ood, drought and extreme temperature conditions.
- Economic constraints are limiting government, business and households’ ability to pay for the investment needed to maintain the levels of service they expect.
The Australian experience shows it is unlikely that the traditional urban water management paradigm can meet the challenges facing our cities in the 21st century. We need ‘utilities of the future’.
Around the world, much effort has been made to envisage the roles and functions of urban water utilities of the future. As this vision becomes clearer, so too has the size and breadth of action needed to achieve it. Transitioning to a utility of the future will see water utilities:
- partner with the public, private and community sectors to develop new business models that provide a broader array of solutions to a more informed community
- foster greater collaboration in developing proofs- of-concept for policy and regulatory reforms that fundamentally rede ne ‘business as usual’
- enhance utility customer service culture, effciency and effectiveness.
No doubt this transformation is challenging, but there is much utilities can and indeed are doing. This paper draws on research undertaken by the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities and practical case studies to show what water utilities can do today.