If your city is already running short of water from time to time, it is a problem that is only going to get worse. By 2050, water shortages could plague 70% of the world’s production areas.
What can you do? A lot. And by starting today, you better serve your citizens and businesses, reduce your environmental impact and likely save your city significant amounts of money.
Council Associate Partner Veolia has been helping cities curb their water waste and make better use of their limited supplies. Read on for four steps you can take to stretch your city’s water. And don’t forget to check out our recent Special Theme Edition on water for even more great ideas. — Kevin Ebi
1. Know what your water is worth
The first step in taking better care of your water is knowing what it’s worth. When you can attach a dollar value to the waste, it’s easier to make a business case for the improvements.
Veolia developed a Trust Cost of Water tool that considers direct costs (water price, operations and water infrastructure investments), indirect costs (administrative, legal and social responsibility) and risks (such as supply disruptions and regulatory problems.)
Knowing the true cost of your water allows you to better set your priorities to have the maximum impact.
2. Know how you stack up
Comparing yourself to others can provide valuable insight that holds your suppliers accountable and leads you to obvious improvements. This approach delivered an incredible efficiency gain in Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintenance staff was able to boost productivity by 43%.
The Peer Performance Solutions model, also from Veolia, helps utilities benchmark their performance so they can see where they have strong opportunities to improve. After the success in Washington, D.C., a number of other cities, including Winnipeg, New York City, Akron, Ohio, and Los Angeles have adopted the tool.
3. Consider public-private partnerships
Resources are often constrained, but public-private partnerships can pay sizeable dividends. Veolia's work for the Atlanta-Fulton County Water Resources Commission has already saved ratepayers $25 million.
Veolia manages, operates and maintains the drinking water treatment facilities and found ways to reduce power, chemical and operating costs, passing all of the savings on to the commission. Over the course of its work, it also tripled the treatment capacity.
4. Embrace creative approaches
If you’re like most cities, you’re struggling to keep infrastructure running beyond its planned lifespan. Replacing everything at once typically isn’t an option. But new technology can help you address the biggest issues quickly, giving you time to take a more measured approach.
Veolia is involved in two pilot projects in Milwaukee, testing approaches to prevent contaminants from getting into the water supply, reducing the burden on the treatment process. One uses satellite images to monitor storm water to devise strategies to contain it. Another uses solar power to clean water, harnessing ultraviolet light for purification.