Bluefield Research recently participated in the biennial WATEC Israel event held in Tel Aviv. Israel lives up to its reputation as world-leading in water efficiency (reported 90% water reuse, 95% advanced irrigation), and showcased a broad spectrum of water technology innovations supported by a well-developed R&D accelerator model. Key takeaways from the conference and exhibition included:
- Technology solutions are clear – business cases less so. A plethora of proven innovations are on the market to solve clear operational challenges for municipal water utilities, from continuous water quality analyzers to data visualization platforms. But many vendors still require a clearer sales argument in approaching utilities. For instance – often the low marginal cost of leakage means avoided real losses alone can’t justify investment in AMI, forcing vendors to rely on longer term, less tangible benefits of smart metering. Or unless effluent quality standards are stringently imposed, utilities are hard-pressed to apply smart sewer technology. Vendors are finding workarounds and offering sales arguments based on longer term OPEX savings and risk avoidance – but much still hinges on well-enforced regulation evolving in places like the UK.
- People – the key driver and barrier to adoption. Bluefield Research presented in a session focused on the non-technological elements of smarter water management: people and processes. Presentations from Grundfos, TaKaDu, Apa Nova Bucureşti(Veolia) and Bluefield considered the people element for firms to transition towards more intelligent management. This includes breaking down siloes within organizations on the utility side, bringing in more innovation-focused leadership, and setting a clear mission to transition the business model – such as in the case of Grundfos’ digitalization initiatives. It’s no secret people are mapping out strategy, vetting providers, and making the procurement decisions, but sometimes this gets lost in the product-focused marketing messages.
- Irrigation efficiency = global water efficiency. The CEO of Netafim, the world’s largest precision irrigation provider recently acquired by Mexichem, held forth on the massive opportunity, and challenges of water-efficient agriculture. Representing 80% of global freshwater usage, less 5% of the world’s agriculture employs drip irrigation. Mechanization stands as a major barrier to deployment, as well as the finance model and land ownership. Chipping away at the nearly 80% of flood irrigation practiced around the global remains a major, if not THE major task for increasing water sustainability.
Bluefield Research continues to track and analyze trends pertaining to all these issues through its market insight services, reports, and consulting projects. We look forward to carrying on the discussion with the many stakeholders present at WATEC going forward.