Risk Governance: A Water Utility Manager’s
Simon Pollard, Cranfield University and Linda Reekie, Water Research Foundation research manager
Accidents invariably have complex root causes
and pre-existing contributory factors that lie
dormant until defects in the barriers align and
allow a system failure. (See Figure 1) Managing
risk and opportunity in the current economic
climate is central to the core business issues
of serviceability, profitability, sustainability,
and quality. Water, wastewater, and power
utilities, along with most business sectors,
are on a journey of improved corporate risk
management, much of this focusing on the
people and organizational elements that ensure
risk management practice ‘sticks’ within the
utility. “Risk Governance: A Water Utility
Manager’s Implementation Guide” (Pollard,
to be published in 2013, project #4363) is
concerned with the improved implementation
and focus on better engagement with utility
boards, improved integration across the
business, managing risk knowledge, and
establishing “sustained and pervasive” risk
management deep within utility organizations.
The intent is to provide an implementation
guide for those who are the focal point for
risk management in their utilities.
To help prevent failures at water utilities, the
Water Research Foundation has funded previous
work conducted by the Cranfield Water Science
Institute and the international water sector
to address aspects of operational, tactical,
and strategic risk governance. The research
projects have sought to answer research
questions such as:
• Which risk analysis tools are in use at
present in the water sector?
• How mature is the risk management capability
of the international water utility sector?
• How can water utilities improve their
approach to risk governance?
• What type(s) of adjustment to organizational
culture support the implementation of risk
Figure 1: ‘Swiss cheese’ model of organizational accidents applied to a hypothetical water quality incident
(from WaterRF project #3184. Adapted from Reason, J. 1997. Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents.
Brookield, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing)