Water Utilities Should Change Pricing to Curb Use, Oracle Says

Water utilities should adopt pricing structures that encourage consumers to curb water use in order to meet demand that industry leaders say may outstrip supply by 2030, according to a survey by Oracle Corp.

The survey of 244 senior water utility executives found wasteful consumer behavior to be the biggest barrier in meeting rising demand that’s also driven by growing populations and climate change, Oracle said in the report released today.

“The threat of water scarcity is not an insurmountable challenge but to overcome it, water utilities will need to make much more productive use of water available and better educate their customers about its value,” Brian Gardner, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in a statement accompanying the report.

The study showed 49 percent of the respondents believe pricing structures need changing to prompt consumers to conserve water while 38 percent said prices should be held down to increase access to the resource, according to the study conducted by the EIU.

More than a third of the executives surveyed said the risk of demand outstripping supply by 2030 is “highly likely” or “essentially certain,” according to the study. Failure to take action could lead to “significant economic, social and health implications,” according to Oracle, based in Redwood City, California.

Oracle, the biggest maker of database software, provides smart meter management software to Veolia and Suez Environnement in France, the largest water companies.

Most water utilities are increasing investments to meet supply challenges, with 22 percent surveyed boosting spending by 15 percent or more in the next three years, according to the survey. The biggest risks facing utilities are drought and increased water pollution, according to the study, which said half of those surveyed found government support lacking to address water scarcity.