Urban water infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is witnessing enormous investments in order to cater to the needs of the growing population and to address the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation, and climate change.
Key investments in the region are towards the replacement of old pipes, expansion of existing pipe network, water treatment, water reclamation, storm water harvesting, quake resilience, development of smart water grids and improving consumer infrastructure.
Climate change policies and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to clean drinking water and sanitation are encouraging APAC countries (and others globally as well) to invest in developing adequate infrastructure and provide sanitation facilities for their citizens.
Aging infrastructure in most of the countries presents yet another avenue for investments and market entry.
Developed nations within the region are shifting towards complete digitalisation of water assets and establishing smart water grids, while developing nations are more focused on building the necessary infrastructure to provide safe and reliable drinking water and sanitation facilities.
With smart cities being a new focus across APAC, many new advanced infrastructure development opportunities have arisen or are expected to come up in the coming years. As a result, advanced water infrastructure such as membrane technology-based water/wastewater treatment, improved energy efficiency, smart metering, data analytics and predictive/preventive systems are seeing increased acceptance within the region. Furthermore, digital water sets the foundation for the application of data science and augmented intelligence techniques to business problems which will enable accurate real-time monitoring and quality control of water assets.
On the other hand, the water sector in APAC is underfunded and is highly dependent on official development assistance (ODA) funding and FDI to propel development and growth. For example, the massive Chinese water market has more than 10% of its projects funded by FDIs. Nonetheless, investors are especially cautious about investing in essential infrastructure sectors such as water and power since these projects are often the first to face citizen backlash and, consequent, heavy-handed government action. Another major deterrent of digitalisation of any sector in general is the loss of jobs – utilities that are protective of their human assets may think twice even when the benefits outweigh the costs of digitalisation in order to protect jobs.