Fostering Innovation Within Water Utilities
As North American water utilities strive to deliver on-demand, high-quality, affordable water and sanitation services to the hundreds of millions of customers who depend on them, the need for approaching challenges in a different way is imperative.
Through a global survey of 78 utilities in partnership with the Water Research Foundation (WRF), Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF), and Arcadis, we discovered that 91% of respondents (400 participants) believe that innovation is critical to the future success of their utility. While 62% considered their utility “innovative,” less than 40% report having the key attributes of an innovative organization.
The report, Empowering Water Utility Innovation, highlights the WRF/WE&RF research and innovation framework, which empowers utilities to build and foster environments of creativity, experimentation, and incubation to discover new approaches for serving customers, managing assets, financing investments, and realizing superior utility performance with the added dividend of enhancing sustainability.
A large component of innovation lies within project delivery approaches themselves. One such example where collaborative delivery was necessary to solve a unique project challenge was the Sullivan’s Island Sewer Pipeline Rehabilitation project.
Sullivan’s Island is a small coastal community in South Carolina that had a significant buried sewer collection system problem with high infiltration and inflow (I/I). The goal of this project was to lower leakage from these sewers by 25% and to stabilize the structural condition of the pipes for the next 50 years.
Through a collaborative-delivery approach, construction management at-risk (CMAR), the buried infrastructure project was completed under an accelerated schedule with guaranteed maximum price to achieve immediate flow reductions and reduce the overall operations cost for the sewer system. This method enabled the owner, engineer, inspector, contractor, and suppliers to focus on a common goal together for the greater good. The team developed a strategy that was new to the grouting industry which ultimately led to improvements and proofs for the overall industry.
Documenting successful case studies like Sullivan’s Island and partnering with industry supporters, such as the WDBC, are key elements to continuing the movement toward collaborative-delivery approaches. With our complex water challenges and pressure to deliver a more sustainable future sooner rather than later, doing things the traditional way will not suffice. Fostering collaboration for innovation excellence is necessary for the livelihood of our communities.