A sustainable future for the water industry

  • Posted on July 28, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Water industry sustainability

Talk vs action: How the water industry’s roadmap is leading to a sustainable future
The water industry is setting the bar high when it comes to climate commitments. In the world’s first sector-wide pledge of its kind, UK water companies agreed that they would deliver a net zero water supply to customers by 2030, if not sooner. Although this pioneering guarantee is a step in the right direction, big pledges require big plans, and the water industry is well aware that 2030 isn’t far away. Turning talk into action is the next big challenge – the question is, how can restoration, sewage reduction, leakage prevention and more come together smoothly to you drive positive change towards a sustainable future?

Investment for the better?
Backed by Ofwat’s draft decisions to support £862 million of new, green investment projects, water companies are harnessing investment opportunities to help them action their roadmap. Accessing a slice of this fund requires businesses to follow through with the cross-sector sustainability campaigns that they pledged back in November 2020. With significant environmental and economic benefits to a net zero future, this is an investment worth making – and worth accessing.

But reaching this goal is undoubtedly too daunting for businesses on an individual level. The potential capex investment of achieving net zero 2030 is estimated at £2-4 billion, not counting other huge demands such as planting 11 million trees and relying on renewables for 80% of the industry’s electricity demand. If the water industry wants to achieve a sustainable future, businesses mustn’t go it alone. Instead, they must join forces to spread costs and develop whole-systems behavioural changes which could be the difference between success and failure.

The net zero roadmap – just a load of hot air?
A net zero future provides new economic opportunities by creating a growing, green economy – not just for businesses, but for customers too. The water industry recognises that it could benefit from more efficient and eco-friendly processes, and it is encouraged by Ofwat to do so. Ofwat suggests that businesses adjust water usage at times when there is either too much or too little energy on the system. This doesn’t just align with cost-savings, but also the current public interest in rising energy prices – which is unlikely to fade away any time soon. Therefore, contributing to the wider net zero agenda provides an opportunity for water companies to harness positive press, as well as benefitting financially and environmentally.

It's clear that a sustainable future positively contributes to more than just the environment. The roadmap will encourage the water industry to update and develop new approaches and processes to support customers and reach the collective goal – together. This is an industry that relies on a healthy environment and environmental resilience, and it recognises that operational and financial resilience must come first. With commitments to the reduction of sewage waste, the transition of 80% of commercial vehicles to alternative fuels and the restoration of 20,000 hectares of land, the water industry is constantly challenged by this never-ending to-do list – which is why data collaboration will be the key to this roadmap.

Data collaboration: The future of water?
It goes without saying that coordinating a cross-sector commitment is tough. Creating universal systems, central sustainability bodies and tackling huge environmental targets require accurate insights and information. By promoting open data sharing across the industry, water companies can build resilience and speed up innovation through shared learning and insights. For example, better AI technology could help the industry predict, prevent and fix leaks before they become a problem. Or the rollout of better, more accurate smart meters to more homes in the UK could be streamlined and actioned more quickly using data analytics technology.

Collaboration doesn’t stop at the use of data – it also extends to the industry’s learning and development. Water companies can optimise and support operations through shared learning. Open data platforms can be used in partnership with digital technology such as AI, automation and machine learning to build efficient, resilient operations – and yield environmental and economic benefits, now and in the future. Data collection will prove to be an essential tool for teamwork and an essential contributor to the water industry’s collective net zero goals.

Rethinking sustainability with Avanade
You likely recognise the importance of data collaboration for the net zero 2030 roadmap but introducing and integrating this kind of digital teamwork is a whole new ballgame. That’s why we’re using digital transformation to help the water industry make data-driven operational decisions. We can guide you in using open data platforms to easily collaborate, learn and work together to achieve sector-wide sustainability goals.

Large or small, every decision takes you one step further to a net zero future, but 2030 isn’t far away. At Avanade, we have proven, proof of concept (POC) solutions to help you quickly identify where and how your business can contribute to the water industry’s environmental commitments - so you can generate positive change for you, your customers and the world.

For a deep dive look into how you can accelerate your journey to a sustainable net zero future, reach out to me or leave a comment below.

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