How do you balance meeting the needs of the 1 million extra households planned for the region over the next 25 years with maintaining resilience of supply, particularly when the supply/demand balance is so sensitive to climate change?
Since privatisation (in 1989) we have seen an increase of 34% in the number of properties we serve but we put less water into supply than we did then. This has been achieved by a focus on demand management and making the most of the resources that we have available. We have the lowest level of leakage (on a combined leakage per property and per kilometre of main) in the sector; most of our customers are metered – and this has been achieved without compulsory metering/switching; and we work with customers to reduce their demand.
Our draft Water Resource Management Plan, which we expect to publish around the end of January, will continue with a challenging demand management strategy – where we will continue to offset future growth through further stretching reductions in leakage and working with customers to reduce their demand. Smart metering and actively using the information provided to help target leaks and to work with customers save water and money will be a key part of our strategy.
As well as growth, climate change, the risk of drought and the need to reduce our abstractions to protect the environment are key challenges for a resilient supply and supply options will be needed to meet these challenges.
This is your first experience of speaking at the Global Leakage Summit. What is the main ‘nugget’ of information that you hope to convey to delegates from the keynote panel session and audience discussion on the conference theme of ‘Ensuring Efficiency, Sustainability and Resilience of Supply’?
The combined challenges of growth, climate change, the risk of drought and the need to reduce abstraction from the environment are enormous. There is no single solution to meeting this challenge – we need to use all of the tools available and first and foremost we need to reduce leakage and work with customers to reduce consumption.
You have said that ‘the key to resilience is demand management’. Are there any particular aspects of demand management in use at Anglian Water – either technologies or initiatives – that can be brought into play or further developed to ensure future resilience?
Being at the frontier in reducing leakage is the key to resilience – and underpins our whole approach to supply/demand management. We can’t expect customers to reduce their consumption if we haven’t put our own house in order and it is difficult to make the case for investment in supply options if we’re wasting the water that we do have available.
We have, and continue to, undertake a huge amount of customer engagement and customers tell us that leakage and sustainability in East Anglia are really important from a customer perspective. As a business we are listening and responding to what our customers think.
Innovation is fundamental to continually driving down leakage. Our success depends on having a skilled and dedicated workforce, using the latest technologies and data analytics. For the future smart metering of customers will be important in identifying and reducing customer supply pipe leakage and in our better understanding of our networks and targeting reductions in distribution losses.
We have read recent reports that Cape Town is in a ‘crisis and an emergency’ following 3 years of a pan-African drought. Without drastic action, the utility predicts that taps will run dry by the end of April. The crisis is reportedly the result of ‘decades long failure to invest in new infrastructure’, but also a ‘sceptical public response to cut back on water usage’, with only 34% of households keeping to the restriction of 87 litres/head/day.
From your experience of working together with Anglian Water’s customers, what advice would you give to the Cape Town utility to help them persuade their customers to use less water – and to use it wisely – in this time of crisis?
Luckily Anglian Water has never been in such a dire position – although we might have come close after two dry winters in 2012 if we hadn’t then had the wettest summer on record! I was working at Yorkshire Water during their drought in 1996 and it was clear that customers found it difficult to accept that they needed to change their behaviours when Yorkshire Water was not meeting its leakage targets – customers need to see that the company is going the extra mile as well. And in 2012 in Anglian Water we had learnt the lessons – we drove leakage down to the lowest ever level and accompanied this with a clear campaign for engaging customers – Drop 20, where we had a simple message to ask customers to reduce their use by 20 litres each per day and giving them easy tips on how to do this. Customers rose to the challenge and reduced their consumption.
There are also lessons that Cape Town could learn from the experience of Australian water companies in their millennium drought. There was clear messaging about water resource scarcity – with daily updates on reservoir levels in the press; there were subsidies to help customers change to more water efficient washing machines; and there was work with communities to change social norms about acceptable water use.
Following the introduction of water retail competition for non-household users, audits of ‘unexplained water usage’ carried out by the Wave joint venture business have already shown that Anglian Water’s larger customers are wasting large volumes of water on their premises. Will encouraging businesses to do their own regular consumption audits and repair leaks become another major influencer on demand management?
Our WRMP depends on business customers retailers working with their customers to reduce demand – and consumption audits will have a key part to play in this. As a wholesaler Anglian Water is working with all retailers to highlight the importance of supporting business customers in reducing consumption and leakage on their premises. We do worry though that this is not a priority for retailers who are working on very tight margins.
What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
I’m really looking forward to understanding what other companies and countries are doing – and looking for new innovation!
At the 9th Global Leakage Summit in March, Jean will be speaking on an exclusive keynote panel session on Ensuring Efficiency, Sustainability And Resilience Of Supply. For more information, visit: www.global-leakage-summit.com