Alternative Water Sources: Overcoming the “Ick” Factor to Address Global Shortages

Alternative Water Sources: Overcoming the “Ick” Factor to Address Global Shortages

According to a recent study from The Freedonia Group, the global market for water treatment equipment and chemicals is expected to grow 5.6% per year through 2023, and part of the reason for this growth is the rising use of recycled wastewater or desalinated seawater.

Historically, the use of these water sources has been spurned due to unappealing aesthetics/taste or technological difficulties. So what’s changing?

We’ve seen the answer in the news: increasingly severe droughts, depletion of aquifers, and pollution of existing freshwater sources have all impacted the availability of water worldwide. With access to abundant supplies of clean water in doubt in many regions, the use of water from unconventional sources is becoming more appealing.

Industrial Water Recycling: A Green Business Strategy

Manufacturing companies are increasingly recycling their wastewater by removing impurities and trace chemicals added during the manufacturing processes. Although this usually requires more aggressive treatment of the wastewater than normal, it can also be cheaper than purchasing new water supplies.

Many companies are also using water recycling as a strategy to boost their “green” or “sustainable” bona fides, which are increasingly important to consumers. For example, International Paper (one of world’s leading paper producers) has introduced new water stewardship goals for 2020.

Desalination: A Seemingly Endless Source of Water?

Historically, the use of desalination – a process that converts seawater into fresh water – to meet the world’s water requirements was viewed more like something from science fiction than as a viable solution to the global water shortage. Practical problems were numerous: older desalination technology was too energy-intensive and inefficient, and the water had a reputation for tasting bad.

However, with improvements to the efficiency of reverse osmosis systems and better thermal distillation systems, desalination is ready to meet an ever-increasing share of the world’s water needs.

Currently, only about 1% of the world’s population gets its drinking water from desalinated seawater. However, with up to 40% of the population expected to face drinking water shortages due to worsening climate chaos, desalination will become an increasingly important source of potable water.

Desalinated water is also losing its reputation for having a strange taste. While drinking water produced by older desalination facilities may still taste slightly brackish, newer desalination facilities can produce water so pure that it tastes bland!

How Will This Impact Water Treatment Equipment and Chemicals?

Wastewater being purified for reuse and seawater are both typically treated more aggressively than other water sources. As a result, sophisticated membrane systems are often needed to remove salts, bacteria and viruses, and chemicals. However, these membrane systems can be easily fouled, necessitating less selective products like conventional filtration systems.

Because membrane systems and other types of water treatment equipment can be expensive, water treatment operators will want to protect their investment and prolong the life of their filtration and membrane systems. To do that, they’ll often use a combination of chemicals and conventional filtration products, including:

  • corrosion and scale inhibitors to prevent damage to the equipment
  • coagulants and flocculants to help remove suspended contaminants that might clog the membrane
  • basic filtration to remove larger debris

As a result, demand in all of these product categories should see a boost.

We’re a long way from recycling all of our wastewater and achieving zero water waste systems, but with improving technology and water treatment practices, such systems may not be too far off in the future.

To Learn More

Global Water Treatment Equipment & Chemicals - The Freedonia Group - Industry Market ResearchInterested in learning more about water treatment chemicals and systems worldwide? Be sure to check out Global Water Treatment Equipment & Chemicals, a recent study from The Freedonia Group.

This report covers the global water treatment industry by product, market, and region, and features 137 tables and 56 figures available in Excel and PowerPoint.


About the Author:

Emily Park is an industry analyst with The Freedonia Group, and focuses on water treatment, filtration, and agricultural chemical topics. She is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

  Chemicals      Industry Studies      Water Treatment