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Tanya McCoy-Caretti

Client Development Director

The focus of this year’s Utility Management Conference was people; both those in the communities at the center of our goal for clean, affordable water for all, and those in the industry who came together in Orlando, FL to discuss the ways in which we can make this goal a reality.

Access to clean, potable water and environmentally sound wastewater collection programs is a basic human right, yet for many communities this is not yet a reality. While we are very fortunate in the United States, affordability is becoming a significant issue throughout the industry, highlighting how members of our society struggle to access safe and reliable water. Water as a social equity issue was the primary topic of discussion at this year’s UMC, as finding sustainable, resilient solutions to this issue is a necessity for water utilities and the communities they serve. Solving this issue means becoming fit-for-future.

It's all about the people

Our workshops and presentations at this year’s conference were all about the five pillars of becoming fit-for-future: resiliency, innovation, intelligent water, advanced asset management, and workforce. Arcadis hosted two pre-conference workshops as well as moderated and presented 18 sessions. You’ll notice two common themes among each: it’s all about the people and no pillar stands alone.

One of our workshops focused on advanced asset management (AAM), which is key to becoming resilient by addressing and managing aging infrastructure within your utility. AAM is a way of working that constantly evolves to meet new challenges, and a successful asset management program must be embedded within your organization, a process which relies upon a second pillar, your workforce, for implementation.

Another workshop explored the use of advanced analytics to help address industry challenges. While machine learning can be a powerful tool, many of our colleagues were surprised by how much we can learn through thoughtful analysis of the historical data already on-hand. Once again, the key element emerging from the event pointed to the importance of training our workforce so they can effectively learn how to use the business intelligence tools that are available to all of us.

Similarly, many of our technical sessions and panel discussions focused on leveraging innovation and people to achieve results, whether through embedding digital within your strategic plan, through the implementation of effective DE&I programs, or through innovative solutions to diversify funding. Again, to successfully leverage innovation, utilities must first leverage their workforce to embed innovation in every aspect of their business. Becoming fit-for-future cannot be achieved without building and empowering a diverse, fit-for-future workforce, and no pillar exists in a vacuum.

The future is bright

One of the qualities that makes our industry resilient is people. Following two years of remote meetings and virtual conferences, we were excited to see our colleagues in person again, as nothing can replace the value of being face-to-face to discuss the challenging issues facing our industry and to collaborate on solutions to those problems. We’ve faced many stressors recently including the pandemic, funding issues, and workforce retirement, but we’ve proved that we are resilient and that now there is an opportunity to formalize how we manage risk and resiliency.

In our well-attended workshops and sessions, we provided opportunities for attendees to start thinking and planning around what the future of our industry will look like. Attendees participated in hands-on exercises to discover best approaches to resiliency and implementation strategies for their organizations and worked to develop tangible outcomes that put innovation to work that they can apply to their organizations right away. 

If you were unable to attend our sessions at UMC or see value in offering these workshops to a broader audience within your organization, please reach out to me today.