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Predicting and Succeeding in the Future: Recognizing and Addressing Future Uncertainty in Water Utility Strategic Planning

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In an attempt to address major needs with limited resources, municipalities are searching for more effective ways to design, operate, finance, and manage water infrastructure. This poses a difficulty in that the effectiveness of a particular approach is dependent on current and future conditions. While current utility conditions may be known, future political, environmental, technological, economic, and social influences over a given utility are complex and uncertain. It follows that a shift to more effective water provision practices must be accompanied by new and improved strategic planning techniques that can address complexity and future uncertainty.

Strategic planning can be enhanced with scenario development, a technique whereby different possible future scenario narratives are developed for a given company, organization, or group of stakeholders. With an analysis of possible futures, decision-makers can better understand the complexity of future uncertainty by developing strategic plans that enable a water utility to achieve its goals regardless of which scenario is realized. Strategic plans rooted in scenario analysis include ongoing monitoring and evaluation to track progress and make necessary changes in planned actions over time.

This paper provides direction on how to use a set of regional water sector future scenarios to recognize and address uncertainty with the purpose of improving water utility strategic planning. The paper outlines a regional water sector scenario development process and goes on to explain how to use the scenarios to enhance the Effective Utility Management Collaboration Effort Self-Assessment Tool. The paper also describes how the EUM Self-Assessment Tool can be further enhanced by incorporating risk, uncertainty, ambiguity, and ignorance considerations into strategic improvement planning for a given utility.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2012

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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