The last few months have been a whirlwind – I haven’t spent this much time on the road in years and it’s been great. I’ve been able to spend time with clients and prospective customers at their offices, at conferences, etc. As I have been talking to many of them about their plans and needs, one thing is very clear: the importance of water is clearly crystallizing among management teams, with big implications for corporate functions and water management in general.
Management teams are realizing that water is more than just an annoying cost center. It’s more than just the most important ingredient in a frac or a vexing new ESG disclosure; it is a key input with broad implications that will shape this industry looking forward. This acknowledgement feels good to all, but late to many. Teams are being built and more robustly funded than in the past. More important, some are getting a seat at the table when it comes to planning and operations. LinkedIn feeds have been a flurry of announcements of new roles, job promotions, strategic alliances, and acquisitions. It is an exciting and crucial time for water management.
These shifts can be major, often requiring companies to reexamine the fundamental role of a water team. I hope that in this process they will empower these new teams with rights to assert their opinions and influence on the broader organization. I hope these enhanced teams will be accompanied with budget to invest in technologies, infrastructure, and supporting personnel. That sounds self-serving, I know, but the oil and gas industry needs major continued investment in water management, which is pretty unappealing when compared to spending dollars on new oil wells. It’s been my experience that many water professionals in the oil and gas industry are masters of making do with high expectations and disproportionately little support. This has made them pragmatic, multifaceted, and collaborative. Collaboration between the E&P and water management industries is still in early days. Imagine the possibilities ahead for a more appreciated water management discipline.
I’m not sure that buy-in has trickled down into operations just yet, or how widespread this dynamic will become. I encounter plenty of skepticism and some confusion, and sometimes a continued dearth of resources. Big ships can be slow to turn, but the hands guiding the rudder among many E&P companies are steering them toward a future where water may finally cease playing Rodney Dangerfield for the oil and gas industry.
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