Imagine H2O is built to support the best water entrepreneurs from across the world who are making real impact on water issues in their communities. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Triple Bottom Line Enterprises. Their pilot program is poised to connect around 1,000 rural homes in Ethiopia to a piped water system thanks to 3BL’s design product Flowius, a system that harnesses the power of the smartphone to slash engineering costs in the planning and design phase. We’ve been lucky to support the work of Chris and his team this year, and there is much more to come.
Lauren Guy, the founder and CTO of Utilis arrived in San Francisco for the Imagine H2O SF Week as a member of the 2017 Accelerator, and left as the winner of the 2017 IH2O Data Challenge. Utilis has gone from strength to strength, deploying with a number of IH2O Beta Partners and far outpacing projected 2017 revenue. Lauren and Elly Perets, Utilis’ CEO, are an example to water entrepreneurs who want to deploy a differentiated solution at scale, and reap the rewards.
A true serial entrepreneur, Nancy Hartsoch has been an influential addition to the IH2O 2017 Accelerator. The Team at AquaSeca are building an easy-install, whole-building solution to flow monitoring and leak detection, starting in the commercial building market. Taking a breather from fundraising she sat down to talk with us. Enjoy.
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There is a near constant refrain from the water conference circuit (and what an extensive circuit it is) that it is A Bad Thing that there is barely any interest from the Venture Capital (VC) community in water technology.
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Guest blog by Jason Carter, Delivery & Innovation Lead, Arcadis North America
The water industry is at an important crossroad. After years of building on principles of reliability and quality, water utilities can be proud of delivering on levels of service. However, every day, that delivery faces major threats, from drought to infrastructure failures to customer push-back on rates.
Leaders in the water industry know that innovation is important to meeting these challenges. In serving as principal investigator for a Water Research Foundation (WRF) project, Fostering Innovation in Water Utilities, it was exciting to see some of the creative ways utilities are making innovation part of the way they perform every day. As a follow-on to this work, we recently surveyed 423 utility professionals on the topic. Ninety percent said that innovation is critical to the future of their utility. But in day-to-day operations? Only 40 percent are engaging innovation as a business practice.
Those who have embraced innovation have powerful stories to tell and ideas to share. Their experience is proof that making innovation a key organizational value actually delivers sustainability dividends and measurable return on the investment of time and energy. The social, environmental and even economic benefits of innovation strengthen a utility’s brand, bottom line and satisfaction ratings, and contribute to the higher goal of improving the quality of life for customers.
In other words, innovation programs are not just for bragging rights. The results are real and even starting with the basics can bring tremendous results. Our studies of hundreds of utilities worldwide showed how innovations such as stormwater harvesting, advanced metering and real-time system monitoring can lead to sustainable dividends in the form of greater revenue capture, improved demand management, waste reduction or increased asset longevity, to name just a few.
In our paper, “Empowering Water Utility Innovation,” Arcadis shows that by building a culture of creativity, investment, experimentation and incubation, utilities can deploy innovations to foster new approaches to serving customers, managing facilities and funding infrastructure improvements.
That said, transforming organizational culture is a process, not a weekend webinar. We have identified the steps to make innovation a business practice to help utility leaders initiate a culture of innovation.
Building this engine of innovation enables utilities to effectively engage internal and external resources to continuously improve operations and increase value for their customers through improved system resiliency, efficiency and quality, the three elements of water sustainability.
From there, the actual innovative practices become second nature, no matter what the need. These include resilience efforts to address water stress or flood risk; efficiency initiatives, such as waste reduction or building intelligent networks; or quality goals in the form of fewer pollution events, or building a truly agile and resilient treatment process.
Engaging in innovation initiatives in turn helps 1) articulate new values, 2) bring needed investment in new processes and 3) most importantly, connect to more ways to see yourself as the agent of change.
Visit http://arcad.is/ACE17-innovator to learn what kind of innovator you are and how Arcadis is promoting #utilityinnovation at the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference & Exposition (ACE17).
By Jim Chu, Founder and CEO of dloHaiti
(IH2O ’13) continues to make significant progress toward our vision and I’m pleased to relay some recent wins and challenges.
In March, we surpassed the 50 million liter mark — that’s the amount of affordable, clean water dloHaiti has delivered to underserved communities in Haiti, now serving over 300,000 people in the West, North, and Northeast departments of the country.
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Imagine H2O and the Milken Institute convened a select group of California water policy experts and stakeholders at its 2017 Water Policy + Innovation Summit
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Water innovationcan lead to more efficient, more resilient, and more equitable management of our water resources. However, innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and smarter water management requires a fresh approach to bridge the gap between innovators and policy makers. Imagine H2O’s California Water Policy Challenge identifies and supports policies leading to the broader adoption of water innovation in the state and beyond.
In partnership with the Milken Institute, the Water Policy + Innovation Summit convened policy experts, utility leaders, end users and elected officials in Sacramento to hear from the winners of the 2017 California Water Policy Challenge. An exceptional group of thought leaders, judges, and speakers presented and developed ideas for policies that will help modernize water in California. The Summit also featured Senators Wiener, Dodd, and Stern discussing initiatives already underway and how these pieces of legislation will expand markets for water technologies and improve data-based water management.
What follows is a take away from each session. Our support of these teams and their ideas is ongoing, and your feedback is invaluable. Please comment below or add your thoughts here.
1. California’s water rights are stored on millions of pieces of paper across dozens of locations, and this is crippling our ability to properly manage water resources. Uncertainty delays or prevents informed decision making, and goes to the very foundations of water management in California. Water rights are not an abstract concept: managing our water supply depends on storing water across years and diverting water across regions, and that depends on accurately and quickly knowing who has rights to what water. These rights are relational and conditional, and 99% of the 20 million+ pages are spread across 60+ locations. Digitizing these legal records is complex, expensive and time consuming. One example of the magnitude of this task: original paper records need to be retained, so staples must be removed and replaced after scanning. 10 million times. We need a water rights database worthy of California.
Policy Challenge Winners the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at Berkeley Law (CLEE) and Water and Power Law Group PC proposed creating a modern information system of water rights and water use that will enable deliberate, real-time decision making on the allocation of water in California. Read the Policy Brief here.
2. Data can strengthen the economics and resiliency of California’s Agriculture Sector. With the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) quickly approaching, changes in how we manage, monitor, and measure groundwater resources is inevitable. California’s farmers are often tech savvy and efficiency minded (think: tweets from tractors), but also understandably dubious of expanded data collection and regulation. Farmers and regulators need not be at odds. We can bridge the gap and reframe SGMA as a win-win: collecting groundwater data will lead farmers to better decision making, cost savings, and the realization of new revenue streams from California’s farms — and proving this will lead to more proactive compliance with the impending regulation and better resource stewardship. Successful implementation of SGMA requires all stakeholders to embrace the opportunity to improve productivity and resilience in a climate uncertain future.
Runner-Up Mammoth Trading proposed incentivizing the agricultural community to participate in groundwater data collection and management through the development of groundwater trading markets. Read the Policy Brief here.
Richael Young (Mammoth Trading)
3.Product overload and uncertainty around product performance leads to innovation fatigue for farmers. Although farmers are more than willing to embrace innovation to drive efficiency, they are often inundated with pitches for the next best thing. They often have limited time and resources to identify real solutions in what is becoming a surging market for agtech products and services. Establishing a third party technology validation scheme could allow farmers to identify vetted innovations without sinking significant resources into a purchase decision. Cost of verification will be borne by the vendor and recouped in sales, and a growing demand for proven ag-tech will lead to more, better technology being developed and more efficient use of water on farms.
Runner Up Got Produce? proposed improving access to USDA-backed loans for innovative water efficiency technologies for farmers through third-party validation of vendor-claimed water savings. Read the Policy Brief here.
4. Developing statewide onsite reuse standards demonstrates how regulation can align with proven technology while increasing certainty in the marketplace. Water reuse is a quickly growing water technology market in California, with US$4.3 billion of planned activity in the coming years. Israel and Australia have proven that a modern society can reuse or recycle a majority of its water resources and that effective solutions exist. However, fully embracing this technology requires a regulatory framework that enables the broader deployment of existing technologies. This will grow the market, drive down costs, build certainty for producers and increase water efficiency. As demonstrated in the renewables sector, consistent regulations create the market conditions for innovation, investment and deployment. SB740 is an exemplary case of this logic in action.
SB 740 Onsite Non-Potable Water System Guidelines authored by Senator Scott Wiener directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop a comprehensive risk-based framework to assist local communities in developing oversight and management programs for onsite non-potable water systems in multi-family residential, commercial, and mixed-use buildings. You can submit comments to Senator Wiener here.
5. Once a piece of legislation has been passed, advocates face the challenge of funding implementation. Managing California’s water resources will require innovative policies, technologies, careful planning, and coordination, and this requires detailed data on water supply and water useage. Currently, the State of California collects significant information on water use, supply, and rights. Yet, the provision of this data is fragmented, inconsistent, and is often locked in formats that are incompatible with modern needs. Since AB 1755 has passed the legislature and been signed into law by Governor Brown, only $800,000 has been allocated to support its implementation — the total estimated cost is $3 million. Absent additional resources, funding from private entities or other cost sharing scenarios, the Bill Dodd Bill may remain just a piece of paper much like the data it aims to consolidate.
AB 1755 The Open and Transparent Water Data Act authored by Senator Bill Dodd aims to remedy lack of consistent and useable water data by mandating construction of an integrated database which makes available data on water supplies in a common, open, and well documented data format.
We’ll continue to support these teams on their way to implementation much like we support the companies in our accelerator grow their businesses. Stay tuned for updates on their progress and opportunities to get involved, or voice your interest now in the comments section below or by filling out this survey.
We also have some exciting changes coming down the IH2O policy pipeline. Alongside our partners and an impressive cast of California policy experts, we are creating new opportunities to bridge the gap between innovators and policy makers and harnessing these partnerships to impact water management in California, and beyond.
We're going to be putting out a selection of the stuff we liked each week at the intersection of water and entrepreneurship (and other stuff). We hope you find it a useful way to cut through some of the noise. As always, feedback appreciated!
Philadelphia Water Rate Links Payments to Household Income - Brett Walton Income-based pay rate for water bills in Philadelphia marks a shift in how we are being asked to perceive utility payments, and how that intersects with water as a right rather than a commodity.
Solutions for a Global Water Crisis - Elizabeth Curmi Poor infrastructure and maintenance of available water sources continues to deplete this precious resource. Estimates nearing $10 trillion may be the world’s solution to implementing the already constructed sustainable solutions we need.
Price of Water 2017: Four Percent Increase in 30 Large U.S. Cities - Brett Walton Budgeting constraints for utilities from reduced water usage inhibit capability for infrastructure management and repair, opening a niche market for network wide cost-saving measures while forcing utilities to seek revenue from other outlets.
How One Water Agency Thrived During the Drought - Tara Lohan Digging into the data in order to restructure internal cost and profit models allows this agency to survive financially and even surpass state-wide mandates on water consumption.
Entrepreneurship & Strategy
Interview with Marc Andreesen: Masters in Business - Bloomberg Sitting down with Marc Andreesen of Andreessen Horowitz, discussing what they look for in prospective investees, their selection process, how they differentiate, and a fascinating look at tech history in Silicon Valley.
7 Lessons from 100+ Failed Startups - Anastasia Mudrova The in’s and out’s of firing a new hire or any employee that just doesn’t meet your/the firm’s expectations. The takeaway: don’t wait.
It's Never Too Early to Fire - Lars Dalgaard The in’s and out’s of firing a new hire or any employee that just doesn’t meet your/the firm’s expectations. The takeaway: don’t wait.
Other Stuff We Liked
Bids don’t only happen in auctions - how subtle signals shape our relationships - Sebastian Bailey The psychology of building relationships (business and personal) and how to get the most out of them.
Roger Moore died: This anecdote about the James Bond actor shows why he’ll be missed - Christopher Hooton Have you smiled today?
IH2O Accelerator Companie
How this ex-pool boy is changing water - Tedx Talks Ravi Kurani tells his story along with that of several others regarding the diverse roles of water and how changing the way we think about this resource can impact health in communities anywhere.
3BL Enterprises- We Need Your Help! - 3BL Enterprises 3BL is on track to finish their pilot project of structuring a water pipeline through the city of Wita, Ethiopia, but have run in to more demand than they bargained for. Check out their inspiring work and help support an IH2O company!
Let us know what you’re reading. Or, send us a note when you have news to share with the IH2O community. We look forward to it.
Adam Wolf is the CEO of Arable Labs. He tells us why he started the company, what he wants to achieve and provides indispensable insight in being an entrepreneur in agriculture.