Most of us know some version of the legend of the little Dutch boy, who heroically used his finger to plug a leak in the dike, saving all of Holland from destruction by flood. One of my favorites includes the appearance of multiple leaks, each plugged in turn by other boys who, together, averted catastrophe. With its lessons of acting quickly, selflessly and with a sense of everyone “pulling together,” the story that emerged 150 years ago still has relevance today for anyone concerned about the future of water.
I couldn’t help but think of the little Dutch boy as I read this Forecast of the Top 5 Water Trends in 2016 by WaterSmart’s Jeff Lipton. The five trends point to giving more collective control – to industry leaders, utilities, and customers – over the ability to ensure a more sustainable and resilient future for water. These trends address bringing water up to speed with electric and other utilities in terms of consumer engagement through smart metering, leakage detection, consumption date collection and other quicker, less costly technology that can save water, as well as significant dollars.
As the water industry moves toward greater use of digital solutions (digital meaning technology-driven, not digits meaning fingers for dikes!), consumers as well as water utilities are getting closer and closer to real-time information-gathering for detection of leaks, consumption rates, billing information and more. And this knowledge, as they say, equals power! It is starting to shift the water utility-consumer relationship model toward one that has both parties working hand-in-hand as each gains more insights on consumer water usage behavior, spending and needs. It also allows those of us in the water industry to put even greater emphasis on customer service and communications that isn’t just about the “problems,” such as service disruption, but instead focuses on proactive practices that promote smart water usage on a daily basis.
Certainly, greater consumer awareness and action driven by these digital trends can’t fix every contributor to rising water prices, refer to trend #1 in Jeff Lipton’s article. However, using the technologies can make a measurable impact on water as our most valuable shared resource. Moreover, like that little Dutch boy and his chubby-fingered friends, the more people who come on board, the more we all become “heroes” in the global water movement.