News Feature | October 21, 2014

Is The Water Industry Afraid Of Innovation?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

innovation

Is the water sector where start-ups go to die?

"When start-ups try to sell their technology to utilities focused on ensuring a regular and clean supply of water, new ideas take a back seat to safety and reliability," Reuters recently reported

Cindy Wallis-Lage, head of water office at consulting firm Black & Veatch, explained this mentality. "Failure is not an option with water," she said, per Reuters. 

But a shift is beginning, according to Reuters. The speed of innovation may be quickening in the water industry. 

Conservatism "appears to be easing, industry observers and players say. Some utilities have started to experiment with new quality sensors to improve efficiency as water becomes increasingly scarce. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050 more than two thirds of the globe's population will face severe water shortages," the report said. 

"Start-ups that use pipe sensors, filtration systems and pumps to generate information to better monitor water quality, reduce leakage or measure usage are increasingly finding open doors," Environmental Leader reported

One such startup is the Israeli firm TaKaDu.

It "has in the past few years found customers beyond commercial players to more conservative water utilities for its algorithm-driven analytics," Reuters reported, citing the company. 

Founder and CEO Amir Peleg explained shifts he sees in the water industry. 

"The industry is changing in the weight they put on software," he said, per the report. "There's a limit you can put on devices."

Start-ups are infiltrating both the drinking water and wastewater sectors.

"A wave of start-up companies is rising up to address the growing need for wastewater treatment and monitoring solutions, part of a $600 billion industry that has traditionally been dominated by legacy companies such as GE, Veolia, Siemens and Suez," a Forbes columnist reported

Certain new companies are still facing challenges in the water sector, however. 

"Those start-ups focusing on the treatment of water — how to make it drinkable or suitable for disposal — are having a more difficult time. The business model there remains more traditional and the field more crowded, forcing start-ups to improvise," Environmental Leader reported.