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The Crisis of Innovation in Water and Wastewater

Duncan A. Thomas, Research Associate, PREST, University of Manchester, UK and Roger R. Ford, former Associate Dean (Academic Enterprise) and Professor of Innovation and Technology Strategy, University of Salford, UK
This significant new book highlights a little acknowledged but potentially catastrophic crisis of innovation in the global water sector, which institutions and industries are frighteningly ill-equipped to tackle or even accept. It suggests potential new technology and policy approaches to overcome both current and future problems.
Extent: 352 pp
Hardback Price: $160.00 Web: $144.00
Publication Date: 2005
ISBN: 978 1 84376 626 1
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Environmental Economics
  • Environment
  • Environmental Economics
  • Water
  • Innovation and Technology
  • Innovation Policy
  • Social Policy and Sociology
  • Comparative Social Policy
  • Social Policy in Emerging Countries
This significant new book highlights a little acknowledged but potentially catastrophic crisis of innovation in the global water sector, which institutions and industries are frighteningly ill-equipped to tackle or even accept. It suggests potential new technology and policy approaches to overcome both current and future problems.

The book explores how technological innovation is vital to help provide sustainable water in both the UK and developing countries. However, innovation is being overlooked in the face of global trends to privatize and regulate water utilities. The authors highlight how the global water sector is failing to respond to increasingly complex world needs and continues to build largely unsustainable centralized infrastructures, opposing more appropriate, distributed and local modern technologies. The book also includes suggestions for potentially innovative technology and policy solutions to meet escalating global water and wastewater demands. Importantly, the authors adopt a long-term perspective that crosses both disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and include an international comparative perspective, covering a diverse range of examples and countries.

This comprehensive book will have a broad appeal amongst researchers and academics with an interest in technology management, innovation studies, geography and development studies. It will also be a valuable asset for water regulators and governmental and non-governmental organisations working in this field.
‘This is an extremely well-researched and documented book. The authors’ hypothesis is that the current water and wastewater sector is failing the populations of the western-world by clinging to orthodox and short-term visions of new technology and innovation, and also failing the developing nations by believing that delivery of western-world high-technology solutions is a contribution to humanitarian development. This is the “crisis of innovation”. To many practitioners in the water industry the book will be perceived to be hypercritical (of the “incrementalism, conservative and dogged traditionalism”) of the sector, but in fact it is stimulating and positive. In the latter chapters an alternate more holistic model of water development is described. There needs to be a movement from large, central infrastructure resources to distributed systems that are more appropriate to local needs and can be coupled with environmentally sustainable energy sources and practices.’
– Tim Lack, European Topic Centre on Water, UK

‘Whilst acknowledging a “massive leap from standpipe to universal water provision in 100 years” in developed countries, the authors of this book see problems for global sustainable water supply and wastewater removal in the future. Using the UK water industry as an example, they describe the global water industry as risk averse and unwilling to innovate, a view that is encouraged by the institutional and financial regimes under which it works. The book explores the reasons for concern and sets out some hard-hitting views on how the water industry is failing to identify and tackle the essential problems in a world which is becoming ever more depleted of fresh water. The concluding chapter brings to a focus the problems of the crisis in innovation and gives some concrete suggestions for tackling them. This volume should raise the awareness of policymakers and regulators, technologists and concerned members of the public.’
– Peter Chave, Independent Consultant and formerly Head of Pollution Control, National Rivers Authority, UK
Contents: 1. Introducing the Crisis of Innovation in Water and Wastewater 2. Water’s Pervasive Role in the Development of Global Society 3. Technology and Innovation for Socio-economic Growth 4. Historical Development and Evolution of the UK Water Industry 5. Water Industry Technology and Innovation Frozen in Time 6. Potential for Sustainable Development in the Water Sector 7. Instances of the Crisis of Innovation in the UK 8. International Illustrations of the Crisis of Innovation 9. A New Paradigm and a New Programme of Action 10. Transforming the Inertia of Inevitability into Sustainability Appendix: Overview of Evidence Sources References Index