Q&A with Christopher Gasson, Publisher of Global Water Intelligence, co-founder of the Global Water Leaders Group, and a member of the AIWW Programme Advisory Committee.
Q: What do you see as the most important trends in the water utility sector globally?
“Utilities are coming out from under the ground. In the past they liked to be invisible: achieving great feats of engineering to ensure water came out of the tap, and feeling that it was a job well done if no one had to think about where the water came from. With climate change, that approach is no longer possible.”
“Water is at the forefront of climate change adaptation. This means that utilities are having to crawl out from under the pavement to take a much broader role in developing urban resilience. This is both in terms of developing alternative resources to overcome droughts, and using green infrastructure to reduce the impact of floods. In turn, this has entailed an acceleration of investment, and naturally higher water tariffs as well.”
“In order to make the case for this investment, utilities have had to become much better at marketing what they do. Customer communication, which was previously a very low priority, is now an absolutely essential part of a utility’s work everywhere in the world.”
Q: What are the key changes you see for the future?
“In order to attract the money that they need, utilities are not just going to have to become better at communicating their value to their customers, they are also going to have to become better at delivering value for money. That means improving productivity. Digital technologies offer a huge opportunity to do more for less, but they also impose risk and uncertainty on utilities. It becomes a real test of leadership to make it happen.”
Q: How does Amsterdam International Water Week make a difference?
“Confronting risk and uncertainty is always easier when we work together. AIWW is a unique event in that it brings together all those at the cutting edge of change in the water utility world. You are guaranteed to meet brilliant people who are facing the same challenges. It is an empowering experience.”