Water & Wastewater Asia • September / October 2018 44 | INSIGHT Making waves in sustainability and digitalisation Arcadisrecentlylauncheditslatestdronedeploymentservicesinconstructionandisoneofthefirstcompaniestodosoin Singapore. Asa leadingglobal designandconsultancyfirmfornatural andbuilt assetswithdeepmarket sector insights, we are excited tohearwhat Arcadis’sGlobal CitiesDirector, JohnBattenandGlobal Leader, IntelligentWater Networks, Giles Booth have to say about urban sustainability challenges and Arcadis’ digitalisation journey at this point in time. Q: Arcadis has been providing solutions for all kinds of urban environmental andsustainability problems, can youpoint to three mainsustainability challenges in thewater industry that countries worldwide should give priority to? JB: The first has to be water quality. With urbanisation, industrial migration and others factors in play, contamination is always affecting receiving water and ground water. If you look at PFAs, the emerging contaminant issue, then you have challenges of quality even at drinking water level. Water quality continues to be a challenge and will remain a challenge as we have more and more emerging contaminants like PFAs. The challenge of water quality is particularly prominent in China, where major cities have undergone rapid urbanisation since the country opened its economy in 1978. The state has recently identified 21 cities failing to meet the target of improving the quality of “black and smelly” water bodies, and that the country will need US$147 billion to clean its urban rivers. As evidenced by the case of China, water quality will not only affect the health and well-being of its residents and environment, but also have economic consequences. The second issue is resilience. That means the ability of a city to respond to disruptive water events like scarcity, floods and droughts. A city nowmust have the ability to live with such fluctuations and events in water because of climate change, changing water patterns, sea level rise and political changes, which are all very real problems and very much in play. Among the largest resilience programmes is the sponge city initiative in China. Sponge city is an innovation solution to create more green public spaces to absorb storm water, making the city more permeable and resilient. Wuhan, the most populous city in Central China, is one of the programme’s 16 pilot cities and Arcadis is honoured to be appointed as the principal consultant by the Wuhan Water Authority for the city’s programme. The third is the area of system efficiency in asset management. In water networks, the amount of leakage can be significant so the stability aspect of leakage has a lot to do with the system too. Inwater networks, particularly older ones, the amount of leakages can be significant, resulting in revenue losses towater utility. Non-revenue water is something to be tackled as it leads to a lot of wastage, and when you consider people who are without water supply while we are losing that amount of water fromour network, it just doesn’t make sense. Managing water leakage and driving down non-revenue water is therefore an imperative for cities, especially ones dealing with water scarcity. Singapore’s PUB is a good example of a city utility that is investing significantly in tightening up its distribution system in preventing leakages and breakages. Q: With governments taking the lead to seek solutions to manage such challenges, what can the private sector in water industries in Asia do to tackle sustainability issues? JB: You have the Dow Jones sustainability index, which is your corporate social responsibility from an environmental view, tracking the stock performance of the world’s leading companies in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria. More investors are now paying attention, as there are growing expectations from shareholders for companies to be more environmentally sensitive and responsible, so that trend is the global trend. Q: In some developing countries, the priority is to solve more immediate water problems such as water supply and drinking water quality, not sustainability. Is it possible to still bring sustainability issues to their table? JB: Sustainability does come at a cost. When you do the cost benefit analysis, I think that sustainability, in the long run, is a good investment because it improves quality of life to make a city a better place to live in. Liveability is a big issue in Asia, investing in sustainability and liveability is a priority on both public and private sector level. The two definitely should join up and work together to create sustainable outcomes. By prioritising urban sustainability, a city’s water environment directly benefits from that investment. Q: Are there any challenges implementing it in SEA?