During the coronavirus crisis, water utilities around the world have undergone a deep transformation to continue guaranteeing water service to the population. For this to be possible, remote control of processes and infrastructures, teleworking or social distancing measures have made digitalization an essential tool to maintain the quality of service. These are the 4 lessons learned in the water sector after its response to the crisis.
1- Water has become a key element in the fight against the coronavirus
The crisis has made even more obvious that water and sanitation systems must be expanded and improved in unserved areas. Consequently, governments around the world are promoting projects and specific investments, which are necessary in a context of reduced income for utilities.
Water is an essential resource. In addition to making hygiene and handwashing habits possible, the early detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater is helping authorities take preventive measures and anticipate outbreaks in cities.
2- The crisis has triggered digital transformation in the sector
The public administration, which in some countries was still reluctant to collaborate with the private sector, is beginning to value positively and prioritize innovative technological solutions.
The crisis has highlighted that continuity and quality of supply is possible thanks to technology. For this reason, the pandemic is expected to boost the implementation of automation and remote control processes, reducing the exposure of workers and customers to the virus, and offering value-added services to the population, such as alerts for lack of consumption in homes. According to GWI, it is estimated that global spending on digital solutions will grow by an average of 8% per year.
3- The greater the degree of digitalization, the higher the resiliency of countries and utilities
The speed and efficiency of the response have varied widely depending on the degree of technological maturity prior to the crisis. Those who had already started their transformation process have been able to maintain their activity, thanks to the implementation of remote reading, remote detection of leaks and fraud, or off-site billing and collection, just to cite a few examples.
Companies that had previously established systems for the control and remote operation of networks and treatment plants continued providing service without interruptions. Likewise, automated protocols for events have allowed to offer a more efficient response, minimizing the exposure of staff to the virus.
4- The water sector must be prepared for an uncertain future
The coronavirus crisis is not a one-off event, we do not know how long it will last and we will certainly see other similar crises in the coming years. Thanks to digitalization, the industry can better face the new scenario of uncertainty. In it, it is necessary to promote a cultural change within organizations and in the relationship with customers, where face-to-face conversations will be reduced to make way for interactions through digital media.
In this context, water companies can also be useful for citizens by promoting awareness campaigns on the importance of good hygiene habits. The water sector can definitely be at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.