Seasonal water shortages, increased water demand, and water scarcity caused by population and economic growth have challenged water sustainability and the water quality supplied to the public. Conventionally, water is supplied by water utilities in charge of provisioning clean water and sanitation. Over the years, the value of water has grown beyond that of a primary need and its utilisation has been incorporated daily as a desired amenity. Thus, water utilities have had to expand to be providers of not only primary needs but also catering to secondary needs. This study will discuss how a water utility can contribute beyond its conventional role by exhibiting success stories of water utilities from across the globe. The time frame covered within the study focusses on those achievements documented in news articles and annual reports issued in 2017–2019.
Social values are interrelated with economic and environmental values. Several examples in this study indicate how social interventions are profitable and have proven to influence water sustainability by improving the environmental quality, which is a crucial factor for businesses depending on natural resources such as a water utility. The key challenge lies in monetising the direct impact on profitability. For example, facilitating workshops and campaigns for water-saving awareness cannot always be directly translated into the sales of water usage from each participant over a period of time. However, in the Malawi region, a water utility managed to implement a prepaid water metering system to prevent losses from illegal water usage.
The emergence of water utilities implementing in-person customer engagements also continues to increase environmental values. Up-skilling workshops and in-person educational sessions on water usage and the risks of clogging will promote increased adoption of environmental conservation habits and behaviours. This, in turn, will help reduce domestic waste in the sewerage system and lower water-pollution.
Another example of how social values are related to environmental values is showcased by a water utility in Australia, which created an online platform for mobile permit applications for birdwatchers; this allows the natural areas for bird watching near the water treatment plant to be visited regularly and therefore maintained. This study presents more than 15 water utilities showcasing social interventions affecting economic and/or environmental values in this study.
Understanding the pattern of best practices from high-achieving water utilities is crucial to coming up with targeted interventions. Depending on the nature of the environment, geography, and demography, a water utility can have growth opportunities on different angles. In this study specifically, 5 growth opportunities will be discussed from the aspect of its contexts, opportunities, and calls to actions.
To compete successfully in the market, water utilities need to be aware of the right social interventions that will suit them best. Increasing the social value of a water utility is tightly associated with prioritising the needs of the people. Water utilities will need to expand channel and partnership initiatives, and also seek to leverage both top-down and bottom-up acquisitions. This study also emphasises the strategic imperatives that should be implemented for wider social, economic, and environmental values.
The scope of this study focusses on countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, Croatia, Kenya, Malawi, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. No particular order of ranking was used amongst countries but experiences were evaluated based on their impact on the social values of the relevant society. In response to the increasing need of water quality, quantity, and liveability, this research service provides insights into the best practices of water utilities and is to be treated as a reference for future recommended actions for water utilities in different parts of the world.