Can the Water Industry Avoid an Affordability Crisis?

It is no secret that rates for water and wastewater utilities are rising significantly across the country. As these rates rise, the consumer is questioning “why”? A July 7, 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that the next crisis for California will be the affordability of water. Water rates in America have increased 41 percent since 2010, and if they continue at that pace over the next five years the number of households that cannot afford water and wastewater services could soar to an estimated 40.9 million, or 35.6 percent of all households, according to new research Prof. Elizabeth Mack of Michigan State University.

One driving factor is aging infrastructure. Experts say it will cost more than $1 trillion to replace World War II-era water systems over the next 25 years. Another pressure is climate change, as more intense weather events fuel a need for improvements to wastewater facilities. Making such adaptations will cost the United States more than $36 billion by 2050, according to estimates.

In addition, shrinking populations in major cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia means fewer people to pay for the large fixed cost of water service. Approximately 227,000 customers in Philadelphia, or 4 out of 10 water customers, are past due, while 50,000 delinquent customers in Detroit have had their water service cutoff since the start of 2014, the study says. Households in Atlanta and Seattle are paying more than $300 a month for water and wastewater services (based on a family of four).

Ultimately, according to the study, governments, utilities and consumers will need to work together to solve the growing affordability problem.
“Water is a fundamental right for all humans,” Mack said. “However, a growing number of people in the United States and globally face daily barriers to accessing clean, affordable water.”

The public wants to know how their local water utilities are going to utilize the monies they are collecting in excess of previous years. Despite rising costs in the water and wastewater industry due to infrastructure challenges, the public is demanding greater efficiency. There is more pressure being applied to water utilities to show efficiencies in their operations by unhappy ratepayers facing ever-increasing water rates. There couldn’t be a more opportune time for water utilities to embrace technological solutions that will make them more efficient and reduce costs.

Innovation abounds in the water industry. There are numerous projects going on that address core flaws in the system, as well as meet the demand for cleaner water. These include:

– Conserving and recovering energy
– Recovering nutrients
– Improving and greening of the water infrastructure
– Conserving and eventually reusing water
– Reducing costs and improving techniques for water monitoring
– Improving performance of small drinking water systems
– Reducing water impacts from energy production
– Improving resiliency of water infrastructure to the impacts of climate change
– Improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation
– Improving water quality of our oceans, estuaries, and watersheds

The sheer number of water and wastewater utilities (over 70,000) makes it difficult for companies with new efficiency-creating technologies to locate new utility customers. The affordability of water will depend in part on the speed at which new technologies can be implemented to reduce costs and improve efficiency in the water sector. H2bid provides solutions that make it easier for companies with new technologies to identify new customers. H2bid will continue to serve the wat

The Fragmented Water Industry is Going the Way of the Typewriter

Community systems in the water utility industry are the most familiar, and most fragmented portion of our overall infrastructure system in the United States. We strongly outnumber other countries, such as the UK and Australia, with over 70,000 water and wastewater utilities nationwide as compared to their 55 and 82, respectively. This fragmentation limits competition, but there is potential for change that creates hope for a more effective system.

Industry players are aware that the water/wastewater utility industry is inefficient. Most importantly, it limits competition which causes higher prices (economics 101). With so many individual companies servicing utilities, it becomes difficult for a company to even enter the market because identifying customers and understanding the procurement needs of 70,000 utilities is almost impossible. The fragmented market also makes it difficult for vendors and contractors to learn about (and respond to) bids and RFPs in a timely fashion.

Technology is ushering in a more efficient future for the water industry. While there are challenges, they can be overcome by relying on a time proven solution that history teaches us. A simple marketplace, or exchange, is something that humankind has used for thousands of years. Such a model would create a more efficient method for connecting vendors with water and wastewater contract opportunities. Examples can be found in such business models as eBay, Uber, the New York Stock Exchange, and even farmer’s markets.

A marketplace is the model of the future for the water/wastewater utility industry. It is a way for buyers and sellers to connect, rather than having to locate each other through cumbersome and fragmented channels. Such a means for connecting would maximize competition, transparency, and make it easier for companies with new technologies to enter the market.

H2bid has developed a digital marketplace/exchange for the water industry, designed to eliminate the challenges of a fragmented market. H2bid’s marketplace includes an e-bidding platform that is user-friendly and connects water utilities with the largest database of vendors, providing maximum competition and maximum exposure to applicable technologies. Also, the e-bidding platform is green (paperless), which means that the entire bidding and contracting process can be done electronically.

An overview of H2bid’s e-biding platform can be found at: https://www.h2bid.com/Bids/eBid

For more information on how your water or wastewater utility can become part of the digital ecosystem of the future, send an email to info@h2bid.com or call (619) 736-0120.

Dredging in NYC Coastal Waterways Results in a State Park

The idea of dredging is not a new one, but the results of those efforts to recycle what is dredged largely goes unnoticed. Dredging occurs on our coastal waterways in order to combat erosion and urban runoff that changes the landscape of regularly used shipping lanes in our oceans. Dredging is even used offshore from beaches, such as in North Carolina, to replenish a reshaping beach line that threatens our recreational and living habits.

First, it is important to understand that dredging is the removal of sediment that settles in gullies in the ocean as tides and waves change the general shape of the bottom of the ocean. Furthermore, the dredging of navigation channels, approach channels, berths at marine terminals and marinas has been happening in some coastal cities, such as New York, since the 19th century. While technology may change to increase efficiency, conscious companies are now concerned with the environment.

A huge push to recycle dredged sediment has happened in the last couple of decades. Most often, reusing dredged material is a challenge due to contamination from the absorption of spilled chemicals and heavy metals in the waterways. This makes management of dredging expensive at times.

New York City is one of the places along our coastal waterways that actively seeks to recycle our recovered sediments through landfill reclamation, habitat restoration, and beach replenishment. But, in the 1990’s, the dumping of dredged materials ceased and innovative ways to reuse the sediment became an economic priority.

Prior to 2009, NYC successfully completed a pilot project that mixed dredged material with Portland Cement in order to create a “contour layer” over a landfill at Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue in Brooklyn. Nearly one million cubic yards of processed material was later successfully laid down at Fresh Kills landfill transforming it into a 2,200 acre public park which is three times the size of Central Park.

NYC residents and visitors alike can now enjoy another park that is critical to an environmentally safe practice becoming a benefit rather than a burden.