The value of water

By Ashley Roe

CEO, British Water

The World Economic Forum views impairments to water supplies and cycles of flood, drought and water pollution as the most serious threat to business and society. We cannot live without water and our societies cannot survive without water both in the context of our individual health but also because access to water underpins both economic development and quality of life. This is something we have to take seriously.  There is a need to build resilient water infrastructure systems that not only benefit our society today but also future generations. However we do not seem to value water and water services in the same way as we value energy, oil, telecoms and other utilities.

In the UK there is a political drive to reduce the cost of water provision, both for individuals and for industry. While the need to reduce costs is important, both for individuals and for corporate customers there are dangers in failing to recognise the importance and the value of water. Thinking of water as a low cost resource can lead to waste and misuse.  And it fails to acknowledge the goods, services and expertise needed to deliver efficient and well-run water services.

In India many states have introduced legislation to keep the cost of water down, with promises of no tariff increases for many years. The danger is if this political initiative could stifle investment and reduce the ability to deliver services to an ever water-hungry society. It is important to invest in water infrastructure and neglecting to do so will eventually lead to a deterioration in service, assets and investment.

In all parts of the world it is important to value water and to appreciate the technical expertise needed to deliver it efficiently and safely. Driving costs down can lead to a lack of investment and a lack of innovation in water and water services which could create problems in the future.

British Water, with our members and partner organisations, strives to promote the development of products and services which can improve the way water and sanitation are delivered around the world.   We provide a voice which argues in favour of investment and innovation.  We are an advocate for the importance of water to society, in terms of health, well-being, industrial development and economic strength.

It is important to encourage public awareness and public debate about the way water is delivered, because in order to build resilient systems and service platforms we need to build public understanding of the value of water and water services. As an industry we are well aware of the challenges facing the water industry in terms of climate, industrial development and social change.  These will all impact water resources, food production and industrial progress.

We in the water industry have tremendous technological skills, management know how and innovative thinking – but we need the support of society to build on these and to protect water supplies, water quality and sustainability for future generations. As a voice for the water industry British Water promotes the need to value water, to invest in water, to support innovation, and to ensure that the global climatic, industrial and developmental changes that will impact water resources, food and industrial development will be managed effectively.

Biography – Ashley Roe

Ashley Roe is the Chief Executive of British Water, Managing Director of aerbiz ltd., formally Managing Director of Information and Performance Services Ltd., Business Development Director of Severn Trent Water International Ltd., and a director of a number of companies worldwide. He has extensive project development and business management experience both in the UK and internationally

His experience spans many fields including development of innovative technologies and processes, international business development, Privatisation, Public Private Partnerships, Private Sector Participation, regulation, strategic planning, marketing, contract development and client liaison.  He has an in-depth knowledge of the development of international projects and businesses both commercially and in the charitable sector, as well as the organisation and management of major public water and wastewater systems.

He has a background in Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.