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Cranfield looks into international water utility sector resilience

The implementation of risk management practice in international water utilities is the focus of a major research project that Cranfield University has embarked on. Funded by the Water Research Foundation (WRF), the $300,000 research project aims to develop a toolkit of resources including an interactive i-book, based on world-leading academic research, for practical use by utility managers in the field.

The City of Calgary’s water and wastewater utility is among a number of forward-thinking public utilities supporting the Real-life enterprise resilience project. Rob Pritchard, general manager, Utilities & Environmental Protection for the City of Calgary, said: “Utility companies rely on the WRF and others to translate academic concepts into usable tools in practical formats.

“While there is a plethora of resilience programmes and projects, even at the international level, there is no practice-led resource for water utility managers that supports a response to regulatory calls for improved resiliency. This project will address that need, and Calgary citizens will benefit as a result.” 

The project strengthens Cranfield’s position with the WRF, a leading organisation in the US that aims to advance the science of water to protect public health and the environment. A number of water utility co-funders helped to match the WRF funding for the research through a tailored collaboration programme.

Cranfield has collaborated with the WRF for the past ten years on a number of projects, and this latest announcement further enhances Cranfield’s reputation as a leading voice on risk governance and enterprise resiliency in the international water sector.  

The resources developed by the project will enable the management of extrinsic threats and systemic risk, support the development of proactive adaptation strategies, while creating long-term strategic value with stakeholders. This will subsequently provide senior and executive management with cutting-edge advances to ensure their companies can operate efficiently and prosperously in the decades ahead. 

Dr Simon Jude, Cranfield Institute for Resilient Futures and principal investigator, said; “The desire for resilient water utilities has become an international keystone of utility governance. This project aims to close the gap between regulatory calls for greater resilience, academic thinking and practical application. This is applicable, hard science for the workers in the field and executives in the board room, with the purpose of delivering a more sustainable, resilient water supply for future generations. 

“This is the latest in a series of projects that have been developed from the technical to the managerial level and from an internal to external focus. Our work, supported by the Cranfield Water Science Institute, has looked at risk analysis tools, through to risk management culture, risk in the board, integrated risk, and now is looking at real-life enterprise resilience and practical application.”

Cranfield’s work will support the recent call from the Effective Utility Management Steering Group – a consortium of leading US bodies with strategic interests in utility governance – who have called for “enterprise resiliency”; a utility-wide, strategic approach to organisational resilience. 

Project partners who have provided funding include; City of Calgary (Canada), Seattle Public Utilities (US), Water Corporation (Australia), EPCOR (Canada), SA Water (Australia), Scottish Water (Scotland), EPAL (Portugal), UKWIR Limited (UK), Yorkshire Water (England), Northern Ireland Water (Northern Ireland), and Thames Water (England).

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