American water utilities are mainly concerned with issues relating to customer care, according to a new report published by consulting company Black & Veatch.
The report, entitled Strategic Directions: U.S. Water Report, said that senior managers in utilities of all sizes and from all geographic regions selected “Customer Rates” as one of their top sustainability issues. Utility leaders also expressed concern over aging infrastructure, challenging financial conditions and the need for customer education.
The report indicated that water smart grid programs, such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), could support customer education programs. While more than 60 percent of water utility leaders stated that their organization was considering or had implemented AMI to reduce costs, less than half were considering the use of Web-based portals that use AMI data, such as Arad’s CityMind, to also enable customers to better manage their water use and account.
“Utilities and water companies across the entire globe are moving towards much broader adoption of AMI, and water companies should use the opportunity to substantially improve customer service,” said Rami Ziv, Arad’s VP International Sales & Marketing.
“Utilities are paying much more attention these days to their customers, and AMI usage offers the possibility of providing full transparency while improving financial and operational efficiency.”
The report’s authors said that best practice asset management programs could help utilities justify their needs using data collected from AMI programs and other assessments. Utility leaders could use this data to prioritize investment decisions.
Cindy Wallis-Lage, president of Black & Veatch’s water business, said that utilities must educate their customers on the value of water and the cost of providing safe and reliable services. She added that without customer buy-in, many utilities would lack the necessary support to solve their current challenges and plan for their future.