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There’s been enough hand-wringing about dilapidated water infrastructure and how governments cannot be relied on to solve the problem. We have all got that now. Water needs capital investment. In fact, providing sustainable water supply to the world’s businesses and communities is going to require hundreds of billions of dollars of investment. But where are those billions going to come from? The answer is simple: they’re going to come from us.
The usual model of governments borrowing money, spending on infrastructure and then servicing debt from rising tax revenues is no longer working. Utility leaders, government ministers, CEOs of corporations and consumers need to come to terms with this basic fact of life: the traditional method of paying for water through public subsidy has failed us. We need to stop fooling ourselves, recognize the fundamental role that water plays in our economies, get the price right, and pay that price. It’s revolutionary.
It is an exciting time for the water sector, but also a confusing one. Water is not just necessary to facilitate economic expansion, through new technologies, better operational practices, and inspired leadership, water can be an engine of growth in itself, for cities and for businesses. But growth in the water sector over the past five years has proved a slow and painful process. Most businesses operating in the international water sector are still finding the market harder than it was before the crash. Competition has increased in their traditional markets, while the growth opportunities have moved to new areas.
Water for Growth will seek out the opportunities currently emerging in unconventional oil and gas, Africa’s economic renaissance, emerging markets which have long since out-grown their legacy infrastructure, new financial models, and creative approaches to performance in the utility sector. The Global Water Summit 2015 is sending out a clarion call, there is a need for people with creativity and influence from both the private and public sectors to put forward their strategies for unlocking the investment impasse that keeps the water sector stuck in a time warp.
Innovative problem solving water technologies are available. However, operators cannot afford them because of the way water is priced. In order to create a market for water technology, money has to move into the sector through setting realistic tariffs and bringing in investors who understand the huge potential that the water sector offers for a stable long term return.