Panel Discussion

Three topics were chosen for our panel that were highly related to the scientific objectives of the project:
  • (a) Adaptive Pricing: can it be implemented and if so will it be worth it?
  • (b) What are the challenges and benefits that ICT brings to Water systems?
  • (c) Water Networks of the Future, what will they look like in 20 and then 50 years time? 
The format of the panel session was that, for each question, each member would then present their view. Once all panel members had presented the audience could give their input or question panel members. The key points raised for each of the questions are described below in more detail.

Adaptive Pricing: can it be implemented and if so will it be worth it?

The general view of the panel for this point was that the technology exists to implement adaptive pricing. However, key questions were raised as to the usefulness of it.  From the discussion, the following emerged as the key points:
  • Not everyone would be able to adapt their usage if adaptive pricing was implemented.
  • Needs of low income population, who cannot necessarily change pattern must be considered.
  • Main implication is social i.e. when the UK has suggested this, there has been public outrage. Water is felt to be a universal right. 
  • Adaptive pricing may not always be to the consumer's interest, but has benefits to the community
  • Some People become adaptive to adaptive pricing – and can play the system to their own benefit.
  • The marketing for adaptive pricing must be changed. Incentives should be given, perhaps not financial, for saving water i.e. vouchers etc….
  • Adoption would need significant changes in regulation (at least in the UK).
  • There are doubts about the real benefit: if difference in pricing is small, resistance to change from consumers will win.
  • There are options to overcome resistance to change in the form of gamification, but this is a niche market.
  • Joined up thinking between authorities is needed i.e. some councils advocate waste disposal sinks to reduce waste collection but this creates problems for water utilities

What are the challenges and benefits that ICT brings to Water systems? 

Our panel also discussed the challenges and benefits of ICT in Water Network Systems. The key comments raised were:

Challenges:

  • New ICT systems will disrupt the consulting models, so big resistance could be felt here.
  • Lack of trust in new technology at an operational level.
  • Water companies are often reluctant to innovate.
  • Change means more customer calls, so bad ratings from regulators.
  • Information security and data security are big concerns in the water industry.
  • Change often has unintended consequences i.e. "stopsmartmeters.com" and public resistance

Benefits:

  • Increased Efficiency
  • Efficient automated and robust operations
  • Facilitating more advanced predictive models

Water Networks of the Future, what will they look like in 20 and then 50 years time? 

Our panels view of what water networks will look like in 20 years includes:
  • Pervasive instrumentation and control, using low cost low powered hardware.
  • Automated management for small utilities. Personnel involvement will be limited to strategic level. This will create organisations that are smaller and more resistance to change.
  • Processes will be built around ICT, not supported by ICT.
  • More attention will be paid to how water and energy is used, and on integration of nature based systems and functions. 
In 50 years, our panel believes that water networks will be:
  • Made up of an interconnected grid of utilities: take water from water plentiful areas to water scarce areas, via a grid of utilities.
  • Feature water trading against customer use.
  • Perform predictive analytics to guide customers.
  • Possible feature no utilities at all.  All water usage will be disconnected, and monitored remotely. 
Our panel also identified some key points that must be tackled in the field of water research:
  • There is very little peer review of water industry research outputs. 
  • There are very few PhDs financed by a water utility. 
  • Only recently, has a water utility set up their own research centre.

Note of the Panel Discussion with: David McIVER, Jacob TOMPKINS, Andy BLACKHALL, and Marco FANTOZZI