Expected Growth and Water Management Challenges

Overall, the majority of water utilities surveyed are anticipating that population growth in their regions will necessitate system expansion. While nearly 2 in 3 (65%) are confident that their existing water license will allow for the projected population growth in their area, well over half (56%) project that their existing infrastructure will not. As such, more than 3 in 4 utilities (77%) are currently planning to undertake system expansion. The majority of these utilities (88%) are committing funds for this expansion, with only a few not relying heavily on government funding to pay for their expansions.

While just 1 in 3 (34%) utilities have currently embarked on a demand management program to reduce water consumption, over half of those that have not are considering doing so in the future (54%).  Expectations of the costs for such a program vary between 1 and 5 percent of their operating budget, with few expecting to exceed this level.

Increasing infrastructure appears to be the leading cause for embarking upon or considering implementing a demand management system. Limited source quantity is a strong secondary factor. A multitude of other factors are also driving utilities to pursue demand management systems, including public demand, urban growth, and environmental stewardship. Less critical to the decision to pursue this system are agricultural demands and adaptation for climate change (see Figure 1 on following page).

The greatest barrier for utilities to achieving their water conservation objectives appears to be the cost of doing so, with over half of those surveyed considering this to be a major challenge.  Competing priorities are a secondary challenge that they encounter somewhat less often. Less significant challenges or barriers include lack of education and communication, and lack of planning. 

Fewer than 1 in 3 utilities are using performance measures to gauge whether they are achieving their conservation objectives.  However, nearly half of those who are not currently using these measures (48%) are planning on using them in the future.

When it comes to best management practices (BMPs), a significant number of utilities are considering implementing them, but few are using them. The most used BMP – establishing a metering plan to account for water use and losses – has been adopted by just under 1 in 3 utilities (31%), although it is being considered by another 44%. Other BMPs being commonly used or considered include developing a water distribution system renewal plan (30% are using one,  41% are considering using one), water conservation (27% / 49%), and cross-connection control (27% / 39%).

When seeking technical information, utility managers are most frequently turning to professional consultants (54%), while water related associations

(52%), and seminars and conferences (46%) are other popular sources.