16/10/17Wastewater Services 

2017 NAWC Water Summit

The 2017 NAWC Water Summit took place in Seattle Washington between 15-17 October 2017. The annual conference provides a forum for leaders in the water industry, public officials and other key stakeholders to exchange ideas, learn from one another and share solutions that sustain businesses and communities.

 

The infrastructure challenges and opportunities facing American water companies is the major theme of this 2017 NAWC Water Summit, the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) annual conference.

 

The NAWC is the voice of the private water companies in North America and is a member of Aquafed. NAWC members help provide essential water and wastewater services to nearly 73 million people in the United States. That's almost one quarter of its population.

 

Neil Dhot, Aquafed’s Executive Director, spoke as part of a panel discussing the lessons to be learned from rate regulation in other countries on the second day of the summit. The panel discussed the pros and cons of price cap and rate of return regulation. The discussion also touched on other finance-related issues such as current investor sentiment and outlook on the north American water sector. Subjects related to rate regulation, such as how it can incentivise operational outperformance and even customer engagement were also debated.

 

Other topics of debate at the event in Seattle were how regulation can best address the infrastructure needs of the water industry, global threats, the implications for infrastructure companies, and the best strategies to prevent and ageing workforce in the water sector.


Neil Dhot, AquaFed Executive Director (centre)


Risk management crucial to success of future water supply in North America

 

The critical need for effective risk assessment and mitigation were among the key messages to private water companies at the NAWC annual conference held this week.

 

Companies were reminded that they are not immune to the effects of current geo-political risks and hazards including economic shocks from possible conflicts in the Middle-East and South-East Asia. There was also a stark reminder about the potential risks of terrorism and cyber-crime both being targeted at bringing down water, electricity and gas networks. The companies were urged to ensure they carry out rigorous financial stress-tests and scenario testing to assess how resilient and secure water their facilities are, and their ability to deliver services in emergency situations.

 

Vice Admiral Carol Pottenger, a recently retired high-ranking and highly respected US Navy leader, said infrastructure is a potentially soft target, but companies can do a lot to mitigate the risks if they plan properly.

 

Economist Bernard Baumohl said that although he predicted the US economy to continue to grow over the next five years, conflicts across the world could knock the economy off track, leading to affordability issues for customers and potentially higher costs for companies.

 

  • Regulation solutions from the US and abroad

A panel consisting of regulators discussed current regulatory issues. They said consolidation of smaller companies into larger entities helping address water quality issues. The panel also gave examples of where consolidation is also happening among public providers in some states.

 

Another panel, which included AquaFed, discussed lessons to be learned from around the world, particularly on rate regulation. The panel discussed the differences in rate regulation methods in different countries including the UK and Chile. While no system is necessarily better or worse than others, the panel agreed rate regulation should ensure the right balance between long-term investment and affordable prices for customers.

 

  • Managing an ageing workforce

A range of useful strategies were presented to help best manage experienced staff who are close to retirement, so that they remain productive and their considerable knowledge is not lost.

 

The water sector in north America, but also all over the world, faces the acute problem of an ageing workforce and companies need to hold on to them as long as possible.

 

Creative solutions to ensure a staggered or phased retirement and keeping their expertise available after staff retire were proposed.