For 13 years, the American Water Works Association has been producing the State of the Water Industry study, which takes into account survey responses from professionals involved in the water industry across the U.S. and Canada. The results reveal the opinions, concerns and achievements of the water industry as a whole, and give insight into what is an incredibly important factor of quality of life.
Here are three key takeaways from the most recent State of the Water Industry report that water treatment businesses should know:
Since 2006, the health of the water industry, as reported by AWWA survey respondents, has generally gone downhill. In 2006, the industry received a 4.7 out of 7, and has only scored that high once, two years later. In the most recent survey, U.S. respondents gave the industry a health score of 4.4; for their long-term view of the next five years, a score of 4.3.
Considering the water-related headlines that have surfaced over the past few years, it may not come as a surprise that people are losing confidence in the water system. From Flint's lead-contaminated pipes to the many school systems across the U.S. that have tested positive for lead in their water, consumers and industry professionals alike have grown concerned over the safety of publically available water sources.
Professionals have also noticed a decrease in the number of water sales. Two out of five respondents said they saw fewer sales in 2016, up from 38 percent who said the same for the previous survey. The survey does not note the reasons behind the falling sales, but one may wonder if consumers have similar concerns about the health of public water infrastructure that the professionals that took the survey had.
When asked about challenges in the water industry, the majority of respondents - 63 percent - ranked the replacement and renewal of aging infrastructure as their No. 1 concern. This issue has taken the top slot every year since 2014.
There's merit to these concerns; according to a Deloitte report, many of the water lines that supply businesses, homes and public spaces with water are either close to or already past the end of their predicted lifespans. Hundreds of thousands of water main breaks and leaks cost the industry $2.6 billion per year.
Perhaps a natural second to survey respondents' top concern is the challenge of financing capital investments in the water industry. According to a 2012 report from the AWWA, it would cost more than $1 trillion over the proceeding 25 years to:
In other words, this $1 trillion isn't going toward water industry improvement - just maintaining its present level of service and health.
Considering the high price of water infrastructure, perhaps it's not surprising that justifying renewal and replacement initiatives to ratepayers and oversight bodies, including boards of directors and governmental entities, were two other top concerns among water industry professionals. Many respondents indicated that establishing and following a financing plan for capital upgrades was another top issue.
Just like the 1,768 water industry professionals who responded to AWWA's survey, you may be concerned about the health of the aging water system in the U.S. and in your own community. As someone working in this industry, you can help your customers ensure they're getting the high quality water they deserve.
Another concern among professionals was the effectiveness of communication between the water industry and others, including residents, media, government and others. As a business in this space, you can help your customers learn about the factors that affect their water quality. Becoming a helpful resource can establish trust with your customers and give them the information to make educated decisions about how they get their water.
Though clean, potable water is essential for everyday life, the resources needed to ensure water is healthy can be expensive. Offering financing programs to your customers - whether they're residential projects or local governmental initiatives - can help soothe concerns about cost. These programs allow customers to space out payments over a number of months, with low, affordable interest rates. To learn more about how to offer these programs to your customers, reach out to Aqua Finance.