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At Ozwater 2015, WSAA will welcome Chris Loughlin, Chief
Executive, South West Water, to take attendees through their
customer engagement journey. Loughlin will be speaking at
the WSAA stream ‘Utilities, customers and the digital age’ on
Wednesday 13 May. Also speaking at the stream are Hamish Reid
from South East Water in Melbourne, Reg Chamberlain from the
National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), and Anika
Johnstone from SA Water, who will all focus on how customers
and utilities will engage in the digital era.
Improving economic regulation
Last year, with the launch of its flagship report ‘Improving
economic regulation of urban water’, WSAA partnered with
customer and private sector representatives to make the call
for better regulation that would be in the long-term interest
of customers. Like the Ofwat calls on United Kingdom water
businesses to have the customers at the front and centre, the
WSAA report highlights that good economic regulation is the
foundation for a resilient urban water industry to be able to meet
the challenges of urban growth, the livability of cities and towns,
and climate change.
Customers are the ultimate beneficiary of reforms to economic
regulation. Better economic regulation means that:
prices are kept as low as possible through:
» providing greater incentives for productivity and efficiency
» discipline on utilities to demonstrate efficiency.
services and investments are targeted as areas of highest
there are greater opportunities for customer engagement and
more transparent decision-making.
The WSAA report sets out the elements of a best practice model
for economic regulation, drawing on regulatory experience from
other industries both here and overseas. WSAA believes that
there is action required from government, economic regulators
and water businesses to address the shortcomings in economic
regulation, and it recommends a national urban water agreement
through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to further
the reform process.
Another way that water utilities are increasing engagement with their
customers is through the development of livability projects. Earlier this
year, WSAA members heard from Dr Tim Williams, Chief Executive, The
Committee for Sydney, who provided some great insights into livability
and the future of cities. He encouraged water businesses to maintain a
focus on livable cities and the role that water can play, saying, ‘We must
have a transparent conversation about the cost of urban sprawl’, and
that ‘Cities are currently the orphans of public policy’.
WSAA’s Occasional Paper 30 – ‘The role of the urban water
industry in contributing to livability’ – outlines the key ways in
which water contributes to livability, including by:
providing affordable water and wastewater services
enabling economic productivity and prosperity
protecting the environment and public health
making a positive contribution to local communities
understanding our customers’ values and preferences
using a scientific approach to inform strategic planning
collaborating to build water sensitive cities of the future.
The contribution of water to cities, and the role that water utilities
play in clean rivers, oceans, streams and the provision of safe
drinking water, often go unnoticed. Many attributes of a livable city
or region are dependent on the availability of water and the way
that water is efficiently used and managed.
The Australian urban water industry has a long and strong history
of supporting the health of communities, and the prosperity of
cities and regions, by providing safe, clean, and reliable water
and wastewater services. Customers and communities expect
the industry to continue to perform this role in an invisible and
seamless manner, keeping services available and affordable
to everyone. This fundamental role will continue to define the
industry’s core contribution to livability.
Many water utilities in Australia are engaging with their customers
and communities to understand their needs, values and
preferences for livability, and how these relate to the products,
services and solutions that the urban water industry can provide.
An agile approach is required, as the solutions and needs will vary
from community to community.
Of course, success in this space also involves partnering with
state and local governments, the private sector and community
groups, and involves thinking more broadly and holistically about
the role of water in the urban environment.
For copies of the ‘Improving economic regulation of urban water’
report and WSAA Occasional Papers, go to the WSAA
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