We all know water is heavy. If we could price water by the pound, we could all afford the technology and infrastructure we need… and then some.
When water utilities were first built, it often made more sense to drill a new well than to lay and connect pipes. As we continued to push civilization westward in the United States, we would dig another well as soon as we got a mile or so away from the last well. Another mile. Another well. Each time, a new water company. The water sector was built in a fragmented fashion, and because we never connected water pipelines and never formed a grid, it is still fragmented today.
The power sector, in contrast, is not fragmented – one key reason is that electrons weigh virtually nothing (roughly 32,840x less than water). The difference in weight between water and electrons has impacted how utilities in each sector are organized. During our expansion to the west, another mile meant another wire pulled. Pulling wire was (and is) easy and inexpensive – enabling the creation of large power grids across the country, and therefore, large utilities. This means power utilities are much more technologically advanced than water utilities because they solved the challenge of scale.
There are nearly 52,000 independent water utilities across the US – a tight-knit group, dedicated to delivering safe, reliable drinking water to their respective communities while overcoming a set of local challenges. After all, water is a local business, and that’s what many of us love about our sector.
Technology, on the other hand, is NOT a local business. Similar to electrons/the power sector, technology is highly scalable. More than any other factor, the ability to scale will determine winners in the water sector – who can reap the benefits of the latest, greatest technology?
To make it simple: Look around your utility. The stuff that’s heavy and tangible should be your focus. The stuff that’s not tangible – data, IT, technology, customer service – find a trusted partner to help you excel in these areas without having to go it alone.
FATHOM chief knowledge officer, Graham Symmonds, is quoted in a recent Water Efficiency magazine article: Utilities are able to access technology and services they might not otherwise be able to afford “because it’s a subscription model where those technologies no longer require massive investments in infrastructure or implementation at the utility end. As business models and acceptance of these new strategies evolve for utilities, they realize there are opportunities to modernize their existing processes by accessing new services through new companies.”
(Read the full Water Efficiency article here.)
If the water sector is going to meet and exceed modern standards by adopting technology in a cost-effective way, one thing is clear: each utility can’t build everything themselves. At FATHOM, we’ve created the scale water utilities need by bringing together a community of utilities. By working together and procuring services to achieve desired outcomes, each utility in our community can experience the benefits of technology and afford to modernize.
Water is a local business. Information technology is NOT. Be sure your utility is focusing on what matters locally. When you’re ready to see how economies of scale can benefit your water technology plan, learn more about The Smart Grid for Water at www.gwfathom.com.