Is the Pace of Technology Adoption Too Slow in the Water Sector?

John Pujol is CEO of Simple Water based in Berkeley.

John Pujol is CEO of Simple Water based in Berkeley.

The California blog Water Deeply takes a deep dive into our murky world of water technology adoption. Writer Matt Reiser finds most entrepreneurs and venture capital backed firms fail when they attempt to jump into the water sector.

“None of these guys are really experienced in water, and if they are, they’ve been burned by it as well. I think there should be more investment in this space. But they have to come at it in a very different way.” said John Pujol, founder and CEO of SimpleWater.

The reporter goes on to describe three reasons why water utilities are slow to adopt new technologies:

  1. The work involves an industry heavily regulated by government, which means a new product or process often must endure a long testing and approval process.
  2. Innovations usually require old-school engineering solutions, like high-efficiency pumps, filters or treatment methods. So inventors need specialized lab space to test and refine their products, which is expensive.
  3. Once a successful product is developed, it has to be manufactured, then kept in inventory to satisfy orders, both of which require substantial investment before the first sale.

“Science is hard,” said Joseph Steig, CFO at Long River Ventures, an “early stage” venture capital firm based in Amherst, Mass. “This isn’t like tweaking your software over a weekend. This is really hard stuff. So a lot of venture capital has really failed in this sector.”

Two more reasons not mentioned in the article include: the importance of not hurting anyone or anything in the environment when implementing new water technology. There is a much higher bar to proving the technology  before it can be added to a water system. Utilities also have strict contracting requirements which include low bid and strong requirements against sole sourcing technology which can also slow the pace at which new technologies are purchased.

What do you think – is the pace of water technology development acceptable? Too fast, too slow? Share your thoughts in the comment section below…

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Alec Mackie

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