Water Reuse Market Set to Explode, GWI Says

Global Water Intelligence of Oxford, U.K., working with PUB, Singapore's national water agency, has completed "Municipal Water Reuse Markets 2010," a report on the market for water reuse to date.

The report sells for US$2,450.

Based on a complete investigation of existing water reuse facilities and proposed future projects, it reaches the following conclusions:

  • Water reuse currently has little impact on water scarcity: In theory water reuse should be a substitute for water drawn from nature. In practice, because most reclaimed water is provided for irrigation purposes at very low cost, it is seen as an additional source of water – the water you can afford to waste. Currently water reuse has little overall impact on water scarcity, the report argues.
  • We will drink more reclaimed water – indirectly: the future of water reuse is in higher value urban applications such as industrial process water and augmenting utility water supply, either through blending in reservoirs or injecting into the aquifer. Landmark projects such as the Orange County Groundwater Replenishment Scheme in California, the Western Corridor Recycled Water Project in Queensland, and Singapore's NEWater program are examples of the new generation of high value urban water reuse projects. These projects have benefited from new technologies in ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection, which offer an absolute guarantee of the safety of reclaimed water. They produce high value water no one can afford to waste.
  • Water reuse will grow more quickly than desalination in percentage terms: Currently the installed capacity of water reuse plants that meet generally accepted public health standards is around 28 million m3/d (7.4 billion gallons a day). This compares to around 41 million m3/d of seawater desalination capacity. By 2016, the water reuse capacity is expected to grow by 180 percent while desalination is expected to grow by 120 percent.

Commenting on the report, Publisher Christopher Gasson, said: "Water scarcity is reaching crisis point in many parts of the world right now. Water reuse has the potential to make a huge difference to the situation in cities, but so far its impact has been disappointing. Most reclaimed water is probably wasted."

"Three things have come together to change that. First, the technologies that will deliver the highest grade water for reuse – ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet disinfection – have become cheaper and more effective. Secondly, the public is becoming more environmentally concerned. Recycling water seems as natural as any other recycling. It is also greener than big dams, diverted rivers, and desalination. Thirdly, the economics are there. Many cities are running out of options, and they are realizing that high-grade urban water reuse is much cheaper than the alternatives."

The overall growth in the market, together with the growing emphasis on higher value treatment applications, creates excellent opportunities for technology companies such as GE Water and Process Technologies and Siemens Water Technologies, but also for engineering firms and other water and wastewater equipment suppliers. There will also be additional opportunities for finance. Currently, around one-third of reuse projects are financed by private developers and this proportion is likely to increase as the size and technical complexity of projects grows. There will be plenty of scope for private and public wastewater reuse plants to be excellent investments as the market evolves.

Water Reuse Facts

  • The global installed capacity of water reuse plants is around 50 million m3/d (13.2 billion gallons per day), 28 million m3/d of which (7.4 billion gallons a day) of which has been treated to the tertiary level.
  • The actual output of water reuse plants is probably just 60 percent of their capacity. It would take all the water reuse plants in the world more than three years to fill the Hoover Dam in the United States.
    · Annual expenditure on building water reuse projects is currently in the region of $2.4 billion. This is expected to rise to $8.4 billion in 2016. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent.
  • Most water reuse is subsidized. The amount spent on reused water is estimated to be $730 million. The total cost of producing reused water may be as high as $1.8 billion.
  • No city in the world connects its water reclamation plants directly to its drinking water systems. The closest direct potable reuse gets is in Windhoek, Namibia, where 26 percent of mains supply comes from reclaimed water.
  • All water use is in fact water reuse because of the water cycle. 62 percent of our body weight is water, so there is a good chance we contain molecules which have passed through historic figures – and even dinosaurs.

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