Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT May 2016

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 5 of 39

6 | MAY 2016 | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk Comment S ewer grit might not be a subject that comes up too regularly in polite conversation, but it's a serious business, as our insight report in this month of WWT shows (p20). Damage, cost and inefficiencies caused by grit in the treatment process of UK utilities add up to many millions of pounds every year. Taking steps towards tackling the challenge of grit could help wastewater utilities toward considerable savings that might ultimately be passed on to the consumer. Discussing some of the current innovations for removing grit, and the relatively slow progress that they make in being picked up by the market, brought to mind some familiar themes. In addition to the grind involved in individual trials of new technologies – which was the subject of my editor's First the worst comment last month – what was once again apparent was the water companies' desire not to be the first to adopt a technology untried by their peers. Nobody wants to be the first to try something new; companies would rather wait until others have proved the way before jumping in. This is hardly a new observation, but it's worth reflecting for a moment that this is the reverse of the situation that exists in most marketplaces. Rather than a fear of the new, most companies have a fear of being leΛ† behind: that their rivals will be the first to grab hold of a new tool, practice or trend and steal a march on them. The result is that while they might spend money on new ventures and development that prove fruitless, most opportunities are explored by some of the players in the market, and progress is slowly but surely made by the whole. So why isn't this the case in the water industry? Some would say – and this would undoubtedly be the current Government's position - that there isn't yet enough competition in the water sector for utilities to think this way. If only the water companies could be brought to compete more directly for James brockett eDItor JamesBrockett@fav-house.com Twitter: @wwtmag Industry view sponsored by keith Hayward, sales and marketing manager, Hydro International Wastewater Is the UK water industry making sufficient progress towards its goal of embedding Whole Life Costing into its procurement, contracting and operating processes? To achieve this aspiration, the industry must take on board the principles of totex (total expenditure) asset management. So, when will consumers start to benefit from the savings made by planning for capital and operating expenditure together? These are critical questions for the water industry, and your response to them might be different depending on your perspective. To test the spectrum of views, Hydro International recently supported an industry-wide opinion The whole-life disconnect survey looking at how much a totex approach is changing mindsets in the UK, and to what extent it is leading to a re-examination of operational and maintenance practices. The results are fascinating and suggest that most people believe our industry is failing to embrace a Whole Life Cost approach, despite accepting that it would encourage innovation and, in turn, drive lower operating and energy costs. The findings of the survey, conducted with a leading UK water industry website, suggest that people attribute this inertia to a resistance to change, a mindset split between capex and opex, and even a lack of consensus on what totex really means. Nonetheless, many still see the opportunities for totex to encourage innovative approaches that can bring rewards in terms of reduced maintenance, energy reduction and better operating efficiency of equipment. This disconnect between aspiration and practice was most clearly demonstrated in the example of attitudes to grit removal in wastewater treatment. The benefits of improved removal at the inlet works are clearly recognised, yet at the same time downstream maintenance of grit build-up is simply accepted as an inevitable burden. This topic is covered by an Insight Report in this issue on page 20. Among the most striking impressions from the survey was a palpable sense of frustration that a lowest-price-up-front procurement model is not fit for purpose as far as achieving totex objectives is concerned. What persists, as one respondent put it, is a "race the price to the bottom" tendering process that is acutely felt across the supply chain. The survey findings have prompted Hydro International to support WWT in hosting an industry round table this month focusing on procurement in the water industry and what needs to change to embed totex and Whole Life Costs. Watch out for the report of this in WWT's July issue. customers, and therefore orient their businesses towards customer needs, then they'll naturally look for better ways to save money, deliver water at a more competitive cost and strike out towards innovation. However, with the retail part of the water sector increasingly separated from the wholesale, and most of the innovation in question taking place in the wholesale sphere, it's an argument that, if you'll pardon the phrase, doesn't hold water. Instead, in a business as highly regulated as water and wastewater, regulatory 'pain and gain' is far more important to the bottom line. And the facts are that the penalties water companies experience for making a mistake still outweigh the gains that they might make by doing something new and innovative. If there is not a natural 'first mover advantage' for innovation in the marketplace, then it might be incumbent on the regulator to create the conditions that reward innovative behaviour. - Innovation is one of the key themes of Utility Week Live, May 17-18th in Birmingham. Book your ticket at www.utilityweeklive.co.uk

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