American Water Summit 2019

AWS 2019 was a resounding success. Read Christopher Gasson’s column titled “What I learned in Houston” below to learn about some of the major themes discussed during AWS 2019.

Houston’s extreme weather is like the Cuyahoga River fires
The opening plenary brought together Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells of the Northeast Ohio Sewer District and Yvonne Forrest from Houston Water. The former talked about the regulatory revolution that followed the last Cuyahoga River fire 50 years ago. The latter talked about the frequency of 100-year flood events over the past decade. It was difficult not to make the connection between the two. Will there be regulation to match the Clean Water Acts to take on climate change?
There really is a revolution in water management in the unconventional oil industry
The pre-conference workshop on financing the water midstream heard how we could soon see operators switch from fresh water to 100% recycled water in the Permian Basin. The next step is beneficial reuse outside the oilfield. It is a great environmental story, but one that is overshadowed by the much larger negative narrative in the minds of some investors around fossil fuels.
The digital market will grow with open standards
Our report on Accelerating the Digital Water Utility – with its recommendations for opening up the market – was well received. In the feedback, however, another urgent priority came up: open standards. There is a strong feeling that vendors pushing proprietary standards are a big obstacle to growth.
The future is public-private data partnerships in a tri-polar world
Our keynote speaker Rana Foroohar talked about how data ownership and control is shaping the world and the economy. 80% of corporate wealth is concentrated in 10% of companies, and those are the ones with most of our data. The solution to this kind of surveillance capitalism will be to create public-private data-sharing arrangements. In the meantime, we are moving towards a tri-polar world, in which the US, Europe and China will build digital walls to protect their differing attitudes towards the use of data.
Agricultural water demand could fall a long way
We brought agriculture into the discussion thanks to a presentation by Matt Barnard, the CEO of Plenty, a vertical farming business that raised $200 million from Japan’s Softbank in the largest ever ag-tech deal. He explained how indoor farming technologies could reduce agricultural water demand by 90%. Are we right to assume that agriculture’s ability to consume vast quantities of water will always be the chief driver of scarcity?
It makes sense for a wastewater utility to plant 10 million trees
The event saw six new companies join the Leading Utilities of the World initiative. They were all awe-inspiring, but the one that really caught my eye was Clean Water Services, a wastewater utility from Portland, Oregon, which has started an initiative to plant 10 million trees. It is the first time I have seen a wastewater utility use nature-based systems on that scale. It obviously helps reduce flood risk, but one of the motivations was reducing the temperature of their wastewater discharges.
Consolidation is the issue, but so is pride
The utility consolidation workshop – which saw former DC Water chief George Hawkins lead 30 speakers in a discussion of the options – was the most energising session of the conference. Everyone seems to agree that 53,000 utilities is too many, but local pride makes it difficult to change in practice. Our dinner speaker Seth Siegel highlighted it as a priority, but warned that we first need to make it a public desire.
Reuse makes regulatory sense, even when you are surrounded by water
One of the revelations of the event was meeting Ted Henifin, general manager of Hampton Roads Sanitation District. He is spending $1 billion upgrading all his wastewater treatment plants for indirect potable reuse – despite being surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay. It is cheaper than keeping up with wastewater discharge regulations.
Overall, the US market is in great shape
During GWI’s market analysis session, the audience was asked about the outlook for next year, and only 10% felt the market would deteriorate. When asked why, the voting suggested that a growing consumer realisation of the challenge, a strong economy, and the hope of consolidation underpin the optimism.

How many One-2-One meetings were there?

Over 350 one-to-one meetings happened at AWS where delegates were able to connect with potential partners, clients and old friends. Here’s a network that shows all the meetings that happened at the conference, with the size of each circle corresponding to how many delegates a company brought to AWS.

How many delegates came to AWS?

Over 450 delegates were recorded to have attended according to the conference App, representing leaders from utilities, corporate water, EPCs, technology firms and financiers.

SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions Stantec Consulting Services Inc ABB Energy Industries IDE Technologies Linamar Corporation Magna Imperio Systems Booky Oren Global Water Technologies Carollo Engineers Central Contra Costa Sanitary District Central States Water Resources Clean Water Services EJ Water Cooperative Schlumberger Stantec Texas Pacific Water Resources TorQuest Partners Water Asset Management LLC XPV Water Partners 120WaterAudit ALL Consulting Antelope Water Management LLC Aquatic Informatics Inc ARCOS LLC Black & Veatch Cargill CDM Smith Chester Stormwater Authority City of Atlanta Core & Main, LP De Nora Water Technologies Ernst & Young Infrastructure Advisors LLC Fibracast Ltd Global Water Farms Inc Grundfos Holding A/S HDR Jacobs Lhoist Liberty Utilities Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc Minol USA New Mexico Environment Department Newterra NOVA Infrastructure Ovivo Inc Raymond James Ridgewood Infrastructure San Antonio Water System Schneider Electric Siemens Sigma Advanced Technologies SmartCover Systems South East Water SouthWest Water Company SUEZ North America Texas Water Development Board The Carlyle Group Tucson Water United Poly Systems US EPA VICO WatEner West Monroe Partners Woodard & Curran AccelerateH2O Alexandria Renew Enterprises Amane Advisors Ltd American Public Infrastructure, LLC Amiad Aqua Membranes Aqualia Americas Aqualia USA Aquify (an Exelon Company) Arcadis Arup Association of Regional Water Organizations (ARWO) ATCO Energy Solutions Ayyeka B Riley FBR B3 Ball Morse Lowe PLLC Barings LLC Bernhard Capital Partners BioLargo Inc Black & Veatch Management Consulting Blackbuck Resources Blue World Insight Bluecher GmbH BofA Securities, Inc. Boston Consulting Group Bureau of Reclamation Cadiz inc Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Capstone Headwaters Cawley, Gillespie & Associates CCMUA Central Arkansas Water Cisco City of Flagstaff Water Services Division City of Lancaster Cloudburst International Inc CME Group CoBank Consolidated Water Co Ltd Cooley Group, Inc. CST Industries Inc Danaher Water Quality Platform DC Water Deloitte Denver Water Department of Energy Donaldson Company, Inc. Dorsett Technologies Drainage Services Department Duke University EJ Water Trust El Paso Water Elias Group EnergyMakers Advisory Group Environmental Market Analysis Inc Environmental Operating Solutions Inc ESRI Evercore ISI Evoqua Water Technologies FEMA Financial Times Five Point Energy Flowserve Fountain Quail Genesis Park Global Water Leaders Group Global Water Leaders Group and Leading Utilities of the World Goodnight Midstream Government of Indiana GR Energy Services Great Lakes Water Authority Greeley and Hansen Grundfos Americas Corporation Grundfos Global Water Utility Segment Grundfos USA H2O Insights H2O Midstream LLC Hach Hampton Roads Sanitation District Harris & Associates Heartville Water Cooper Inc. Houston Water Hugo Neu IDE Projects Illinois Commerce Commission Independent Author infraManagement Group Infrastructure Project Finance LLC Invenergy LLC Iowa Lakes Regional Water Isle Ltd. Isle Utilities JEA Jeffries Financial Group Johnson Controls Johnson County Wastewater KennedyJenks Consultants Inc Kimberly-Clark Corporation LA Sanitation LADWP Las Vegas Valley Water District/Southern Nevada Water Authority Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Los Angeles Department of Water and Power LuminUltra LVVWD/SNWA Marathon Oil Master Meter McKinsey & Co Metropolitan District Commission Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Milton Roy Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Moonshot LLC Mueller Water Products Mueller Water Systems Nanostone Water, Inc Nasdaq, Inc. National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) National Rural Water Association NLC Service Line Warranty Program/HomeServe USA NorrisLeal, LLC Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP NW Natural Water Occidental Petroleum Corporation Office of Water Management, US EPA Oil Conservation Division Oilfield Water Logistics Orange County Water District Parish of Ascension PERC Water Corporation Petroleum Analyzer PFM Financial Advisors LLC Philadelphia Water Department Plasson USA Plast-O-Matic Valves Plenty Portland Water Bureau Private Capital Advisory’s Private Capital Solutions Group Procter & Gamble PWN Drinking Water Supply Company Quantified Ventures RBC Capital Markets RCAP Inc. RealX Reason Foundation Rice University Roscoe Moss Company Rural Utilities Service, USDA S&P Global Ratings San Diego County Water Authority Sarpy County, Nebraska Solaris Water Midstream South Delaware County Rural Water Southern Nevada Water Authority Southwest Research Institute Stepwell Water Consulting Stifel Storm and Stream Solutions LLC SUEZ Sylmar Group Tampa Bay Water Temasek Tesco Controls Texas A & M University Texas Desalination Association The Haskell Company’s Water Division The Malabar Group The Nature Conservancy The Water Cycle The Weitz Company Toho Water Authority Transcend H2O UGSI Solutions Inc Unitywater US Army Corps of Engineers US Department of Agriculture US Department of Energy US Environmental Protection Agency US Floating Solar USEPA Utilis Veles Water Veolia Veolia North America Victaulic Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Water Foundry West Basin Water District Westin Technology Solutions WestWater Research XRI Blue Xylem Yokogawa Electric Corporation

How popular were the sessions?

Based on data from the AWS app, Consolidation US was the most popular session from the sessions agenda, although others were very close behind. Here’s a tree map to show the relative popularity of all sessions based on data from the app.

ConsolidationUSTechnology FuturesUtility ExcellenceClimate ChangeIntroducingCorporateWaterStrategyUninventedTechnologiesGWI MarketInsights20 Technologiesto Save AmericaUnlockingthe DigitalOpportunityLUOWInnovationTrajectoriesLUOWLeadershipRoundtablesBridging theStormwaterFunding GapCan DesalinationMake a Comebackin the US?

Which roundtable questions were the most popular?

During day 1, the roundtables session focused on the theme of answering the “20 Most Pressing Questions for the American Water Industry”. Below are the 5 questions that proved most popular with our delegates based on data from the AWS app.

1. How big can reuse get in the US?
Eva Arnaiz, Country Manager, USA, Aqualia
Aqualia’s US Country Manager, Eva Arnaiz draws on lessons learned from arid regions in countries like Spain, South Africa and Singapore and how the US can share in the global dialogue towards a circular approach.
2. What’s the role for private capital in water?
Edward Fanter, Managing Director, National Bank Financial
As privatisations and P3s become more common for water and wastewater infrastructure, Edward Fanter discusses the new trending areas of private equity and infrastructure fund focus: potable water, wastewater, and industrial water treatment.
3. What is the best investment strategy for water?
Deane M. Dray, CFA Managing Director, RBC Capital Markets, LLC
Given the premise that all water businesses are not valued equally, equity analyst Deane Dray discusses investment strategies that incorporate a water technology valuation.
4. Who is buying what and why?
Ian Elkins, Editor, Global Water Intelligence
The best way to understand the direction of thinking in the water business is through the mergers and acquisitions market. These corporate transactions offer a visceral exposure of corporate strategy, its ambitions, its successes and its failures. GWI Editor-in-Chief Ian Elkins gives his insight into this fast moving marketplace.
5. Can utilities collaborate on technology?
George Hawkins, Founder, Moonshot LLC
He calls it the Moonshot. The idea is to bring utilities together to create a platform to co-develop – with the private sector – the innovations they need to make the dramatic improvements in service and productivity they require. Retired utility leadership rock star and Moonshot LLC CEO George Hawkins gives an update on the plan.

Which roundtable projects were the most popular?

Day 2 of AWS 2019 saw 20 roundtables covering 20 of the biggest water projects in the US. The map below shows which projects were the most popular with our delegates.