What does $69 oil mean for the global water sector?

How will the recent fall in the oil price affect the water business? I have been thinking about that question this week as my itinerary took me from one of the most energy-poor regions of the map (the Caribbean) to one of the richest (Saudi Arabia).

In theory, lower energy costs should have a binary impact on investment in water, with energy-rich countries spending less...

Why 38-year-old retirees will change water’s future

One of the most brutal stories told at the American Water Summit was told by Ed Pawlowski, the mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Explaining why the city needed to lease out its water system to raise $211 million, he related how the municipal pension deficit had spiralled out of control.

Apparently the rule was that police and fire crews could retire on full pensions...

Capitalism vs communism in the US water sector

During the final panel discussion of last week's American Water Summit Underground Solutions boss Andy Seidel asked the audience the following controversial multiple choice question: "How would you characterise the water industry with regards to technology adoption?”

1) Faster than Ebola spreading through a Greek orgy

2) About right

3) Slower than a slug on a...

The antidote to bad business: some service revenues


I have just presented our fourth-quarter desalination market update to DesalData subscribers. Although the outlook for desal is very strong, 2014 has been a bloody year for plant suppliers. We expect the total capacity contracted in 2014 to be just 28% of what it was at the peak of the market in 2007. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is having a tough...

A better solution for water than a Danish invasion

Does the water industry create jobs? According to “National Economic & Labour Impacts of the Water Utility Sector”, published by the Value of Water Coalition last month, $1 million spent on water generates 16 jobs. This is “more jobs per $1 million than investments in military spending or personal income tax cuts”, the report claims.

It also...

Decentralised water: a pyramid scheme or the future?

Last week while I was in Washington, a World Bank economist made an unusual observation to me: “Water networks are like the pyramids. You just can’t build things like that any more because the labour costs are too high,” he said.

The Egyptians had access to slave labour, which usefully subsidised the cost of their great mausolea. These days, if you...