Big Data, Big Opportunity: Opportunities in Municipal Water Utility Contracts

It seems daily there is a story about how the nation needs to invest in infrastructure. Like roads, bridges, and airports, our nation's water infrastructure is crumbling and in need of massive investments.

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By Glenn Oliver

It seems daily there is a story about how the nation needs to invest in infrastructure. Like roads, bridges, and airports, our nation’s water infrastructure is crumbling and in need of massive investments. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s water infrastructure a “D” grade. Today, approximately $45 billion is spent annually on water infrastructure. Much of that is spent on contracts for such things as pipes, pumps, meters, chemicals, hardware and software, new water treatment plants, and consulting services.

The amount spent on water infrastructure is projected to increase, as the American Water Works Association predicts that it will cost at least $1 trillion to upgrade existing water systems and meet the drinking water infrastructure needs of our growing population. With this kind of projected spending, the municipal water utility industry is going to be a strong source of business opportunities for many years to come. Yet the fragmented nature of the industry makes it difficult to locate relevant contract opportunities.

Furthermore, most infrastructure contracts are placed out for public bidding and the response time can be as short as three weeks. So, if you are not promptly notified about an opportunity, you may not have adequate time to attend any pre-bid meetings, review the Request for Proposal (RFP), identify subcontractors, obtain the necessary bond, and prepare a detailed response. It is practically impossible for a company to track the bid opportunities coming out of the nation’s water utilities each day.

Today, water utility vendors and contractors are using bid information services to sort through the avalanche of bids and RFPs to find the right opportunities in a timely manner. Using a bid information service is a cost-effective way to make the impossible possible. However, getting the maximum benefit from a bid information service requires recognizing key elements that can make the difference between a smart investment and a waste of time (and money). Here are five key things to look for when selecting a bid information service.

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It is expected to cost at least $1 trillion to upgrade existing water systems and meet the drinking water infrastructure needs of our growing population.

Go for Specificity

When searching for a bid information service, you should look for one that is specific to your needs. Otherwise, you will end up spending money for extra data that is collected that has nothing to do with your industry. For example, if you are looking for water utility contract opportunities, then you should search for a bid information service that is focused on serving that market. Doing so will also prevent you from spending time wading through non-water related bids (you don’t need to waste time sorting through bids for defense projects, and school supplies). Also, generic bid information services typically only cover a few of the large municipal water systems, leaving thousands of utilities out.

Track Opportunities Daily

Bids are released daily and need to be tracked daily. Look for a bid information service that provides daily email alerts of new opportunities. Otherwise you will not receive timely notification of an opportunity and may not have enough time to respond. A service that sends out weekly alerts - or no alerts at all - will leave you with a lot of missed opportunities. Also, you should be able to customize the alerts by keyword so that you are not bombarded with irrelevant bids. The ability to use negative keywords will make the service even more useful for screening out bids that you do not want to see.

Ease of Use

A key value in a bid information service is whether it is easy to use. It should not require a lengthy training course or a service technician in order for you to use the site. Complicated search steps and layers of confusing options will only serve to consume time.

Another tool that can save time is the ability to conduct searches within search results. Refining search results this way quickly narrows down the opportunities that are a match for you.

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Today, approximately $45 billion is spent annually on water infrastructure. Much of that is spent on contracts for such things as pipes, pumps, meters, chemicals, hardware and software, new water treatment plants, and consulting services.

Take Advantage of Historical Data

You can gain insights that may help you prepare a better bid response if you have access to historical data. A bid information service with a database of previous bids may help you determine whether key specifications may have changed or remained the same from previous bids. A database of at least five years will provide you with a good source of historical information.

Another often overlooked source of valuable data are bid tabulations, which show the bidders and their bid prices. A bid tabulation database can help you determine your pricing strategy and compete more effectively for contracts.

Save and Send Data to Review Later

Once you conduct a search, you should be able to save the bids or send the search results to an email address for later review. Another helpful feature is the ability to download the bid or download search results in an Excel or CSV format. Look also for the ability to save bids in a folder for later review. Finally, you should be able to print individual bids or search results in a few clicks.

It’s All About Being Smart

The municipal water infrastructure industry consists of big data and big opportunities. In the past, there was no efficient means of tracking the thousands of bids and RFPs being issued by water utilities each month. Now vendors and contractors can use a bid information service to aggregate data on water infrastructure contract opportunities and receive timely notification of new opportunities. By keeping in mind a few key points, water utility vendors and contractors can find the right bid information service and maximize the benefits of using such a service.


About the Author: Glenn Oliver is the CEO of H2bid, a leading source for water and wastewater utility contract opportunities. He has over 15 years of public and private experience in the water industry, including formerly serving as a Commissioner for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Under Oliver’s leadership, H2bid has grown to provide information on water utility contract opportunities from all 50 states and Canada, and has a database of over 350,000 water and wastewater utility bids and RFPs.

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