Highlights from an interview with Patrick Regan, Director of Global Corporate Accounts, Evoqua
Q: At the 2018 Global Water Summit in Paris there was discussion about the declining number of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the water sector based in part on lack of trust between public and private entities. Do you agree with that assessment and if so what could be done to help build more trust in the PPP model?
A: I agree that we are not seeing the number of PPPs you would expect given the needs in the water sector. Of course different people have different definitions for PPPs. The loose definition of a PPP is using private funds to facilitate manifestation of a project. Many urban municipal entities are stuck in the conventional design-bid-build mindset. We need to shift to a progressive design-build mindset where the customer may not know the specifics of what they want but they find a good partner to help figure it out with them through a PPP. PPPs require a new mindset. For most folks, that’s scary because its new territory. There are some exceptions to this but we need collaboration and mentoring to help change that mindset on a larger scale. We need a framework or a program that smaller utilities can plug into to help facilitate PPPs and help foster innovation in a space that really needs innovation.
Q: Collaboration is often cited as essential to success these days. What characteristics do you think create good collaboration?
A: When it comes to collaborating with other solution providers, checking egos at the door is key. When it comes to collaborating with customers on a solution for their challenges, it is on us to demonstrate our credibility if we are going to earn a seat at the table.
Q: What new technology or projects are you working on that you are excited about and think other water professionals would be interested in?
A: I get excited about anything that can improve the quality of water coming into my home. One of the compounds that has received a lot of press lately is PFAS (perfluoroalkyls). It is commonly used for a lot of things, from fire suppression to keeping food from sticking to pans. The EPA has published health advisory levels of 70ppt (think one drop of water in an Olympic sized swimming pool). But an increasing number of domestic water supplies have levels above this, and even 70ppt may still be toxic. As a result, states like New Jersey and Michigan are taking the lead to put out tougher regulations. The exciting part for Evoqua is not just that we have several solutions to remove these compounds from drinking water supplies, but also that we are working to make them more cost effective so that the people charged with protecting public health can more easily implement them.
Q: What needs do you think are imperative for the water industry that no one has yet filled?
A: Figuring out the power/water nexus is not just about power. A municipal wastewater treatment (WWT) plant, and many industrial WWT plants have the ability to not only produce clean water, but also renewable energy. If the industry can figure out how to leverage this capability toturn a cost center into a source of revenue, it will redefine the industry and foster a new wave of innovation.