17 Feb Water Policy not up to future challenges
Australia’s Productivity Commission finds Australia’s water policy is not up to the future challenges of climate change and population growth.
Written by Guenter Hauber-Davidson
“As urban populations grow, Australia’s cities need a greater focus on recycled and storm water for both drinking water and maintaining open green spaces.” May I add: We also really need to get on with moving our approach how we measure our water use out of the last century! Most of all, we need flexible supply & demand-based pricing with very strong pricing signals.
We do have the technology, plenty of use cases and the ability to dramatically improve the way we record water use. Yet, we are nowhere near bold enough to adopt this technology and explore the many benefits #smartwatermetering offers.
We need to find the political will to boldly move forward, tell our customers that it may cost a little bit more today, but that it will save us huge amounts going forward.
Think in this context what you could do if you knew every day how much water is getting used!
You could actually, in days of plenty, like we have in Sydney right now, let your customers indulge in a bit more generous water use – and sell more, i.e. make more money/profit so you can pay for new technology.
Yes, you can do that. Because as soon as the rain stops, and we move into the next inevitable dry cycle, you can ratchet up your customer communication and let your customers know that the days of aplenty need to be wound back.
Because, with smart metering, you effectively have instant and continuous usage information, you can see right away whether your message is hitting home or not. If not, and you need to increase the need to dial back water use, you can ramp up your communication campaign. You can even easily do A / B trials to work out which messages are getting cut through and which ones aren’t.
Additionally, by collecting at least 30 min interval data, or if need be for some periods and a select group, with the latest version of the #NUmeter, you can even change this on the fly and go down to 5 or even 1 min intervals, and by adding in some machine learning (ML) and AI – readily doable these days (ask us how) – you can easily see where and how water is used, especially relative to discretionary use, i.e. gardening, pool backwashing or overflows, excessive showers use, or the good old leaks.
Imagine what you could do with that. You could do a very simple yet very individual customised granular assessment of essential water use. You can charge for that at very reasonable and affordable rates.
After all, water is an essential good and I do not advocate for a moment that the key ingredient we need to survive, is excessively charged.
Indeed, what I’m proposing here achieves exactly that. We ensure that we always have plenty of safe secure high-quality water available for essential services at very affordable rates. However, by knowing what water is used for, we can then add in a very significant price hike for non-essential water use, like e.g. gardening.
To me, that sends a very clear monetary signal to the market where you can make a choice how much money you would like to spend on this discretionary water use. If a customer decides that they do want to have a very lush and green garden in days of drought, or can’t be bothered to fix their leaks or apply other water efficiency measures, then they pay for it. But, again, at a rate right that is cost effective for the water utility, i.e. well above the marginal cost of water.
I encourage all water utilities to take bold steps now towards the benefits of smart metering – it’s all about customer service and what our customers want.
So why not use smart water metering as a tool to let the customer decide how much water they want to use, and how much they want to pay for it. Whilst ultimately increasing the bottom line for the utility or allowing to reduce water prices overall. It will secure water so that there is enough for all of us going into the future.