“When the people of Flint, Michigan, turned on their faucets in April 2014, the water pouring out was poisoned with lead and other toxins. It took 18 months of activism by city residents and a band of dogged outsiders to force the state to admit that the water was poisonous. By that time 12 people had died and Flint's children had suffered irreparable harm.” This is Anna Clark, summarising her fascinating and recommended new book ‘The Poisoned City - Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy’, 2018.
It is a disturbing story of what happens when a city does not invest in capital maintenance, tries to bring in a cut price version of a replacement water source and fails to understand the value of the resource it is abandoning; and, amongst many other challenges, is unable to manage its customer base, losing too many customers, both from the city's industrial decline and from the use of disconnections to manage debtors.
This is a different challenge to that found in many lower-income countries but still makes you think again about the particular challenges of our ‘fixed cost’ (80%-90%) networked water and sanitation business. And what happens when you ignore customers.