Water: co-designing a shared asset.

BLOG: Water is intrinsically linked to how we view our future.

Elise  •  Monday April 16, 2018
Energy & environment  •  Social Impact
shared value water

60% of our body weight is water. That’s a visceral connection we have with nature and with each other. Water is life. But sourcing, purifying, delivering and administering water costs money. Water has a financial value. That value needs to be defined. Water is not a given. Victorians need to maintain the medium term memory of what it means to have dams at less than 20%. Water evokes emotion and respect. As we grasp the challenges of climate change and urban development, water is not only a shifting supply to agricultural, industrial and human activity, but an asset for energy generation and storage. Water, and our shared understanding of its value, is intrinsically linked to how we view our future.

The opportunities

For government, councils, water companies and the myriad of intersecting organisations and decision-makers, the contextual challenges of prioritizing, legislating, delivering, managing and valuing water are unique. Of course, the flip-side of this is a set of unique opportunities to co-design better social and economic returns.

A precious commodity

Water has economic and social value. We may see water as a right, but it isn’t usually free. Consumer education leads to a more sophisticated and pragmatic understanding of the finite nature of water and the costs of collecting, purifying and distributing water to our industries and families. At home, water recycling – rain water, grey water, black water – is far from pervasive. At geographic and industrial scale, storm water’s potential remains largely untapped. As the science and engineering improves, motivating people and business to adopt technology, evolve their environmental values and change their consumption behaviour will see Australian water utilities and governments develop new markets, create jobs and establish sustainable systems.

A source of power

To witness the surging sea, torrential rain or river rapids is to know the power of water. Water was once a primary source of energy, with mills a common sight along city water ways. Why then, have we been so slow to adopt its energy generation potential? Climate change and renewable energy policy is escalating research and application of water-based electricity generation, energy storage and energy recovery. From local neighbourhood drainage and arterial waterways to massive dam and tidal installations, water’s powerful promise is starting to be realised.

Identity, values and behaviour change

The word ‘water’: does it evoke nature, danger or a monthly bill? What relationship do Australians have and want with water and the companies that deliver it to our doors? Beyond legislation and regulation, Australian governments have a key role in ensuring, from a young age to later life, that we understand the value of water. Water companies will increasingly be called upon to make that value real in products, services and changes in behaviour. At home and at work, people who see the emotional and functional benefits can begin to see water differently. Real change can only be achieved when consumers and communities are deeply engaged in decision-making. This can only truly be achieved through co-design.

The next move 

We’ve worked with federal and state planning, environment and local government departments, capital city and local government, water utilities and disruptors in sustainable finance and technology. Using a mix of contemporary methods, we’ve helped them to innovate, engage, communicate, co-design and map the pathway forwards.

We’ve worked with them to:

  • Co-design with consumers, communities and partners
  • Design and facilitate social innovation programs leading to product, service and experience design
  • Frame, measure and define the impact they are having right now
  • Design and facilitate consumer and social impact research
  • Develop enterprise level shared value strategy
  • Research, model and write social value propositions and purpose statements
  • Manage the risk of taking a social position
  • Design and execute integrated brand and marketing campaigns across digital and traditional platforms/channels

The platform is burning and the opportunities are clear, so whats your next move?

Talk to us about harnessing the social and economic returns of water.