Water scarcity

Water scarcity is becoming an urgent problem in more regions of the world. This presses on industrial facilities, for instance. Many of them need to reduce their water consumption – while safeguarding the level of industrial production, of course. Water saving technologies now receive more attention.

Water shortage in India.
Water shortage in India. Photo Orazgeldiyew Wikimedia Commons

Lux Research devoted attention to this branch of technologies. They concentrate on four technologies: advanced membrane systems, low-energy wastewater treatment, biological treatments, and zero liquid discharge. And it’s not just water scarcity – water pollution needs to be treated as well. Lux highlights efforts in a broad range of sectors: from beer to semiconductors, to cement and chemicals. Each sector is confronted with water scarcity issues that need to be resolved.

Water scarcity regulation

On top of the general issue of water conservation come the different regulations that companies are confronted with, dependent on location. Lux research gives the example of the international company PepsiCo. It operates hundreds of plants all across the world. Each of these plants can be faced with different requirements for water scarcity (conservation or recycling) that can pose as many challenges.

Water Shortage in Ethiopia.
Water shortage in Ethiopia. Photo Oxfam East Africa, Wikimedia Commons.

It’s not just regulations that become stricter. All over the world, water costs are rising. From a financial perspective already, companies need to treat water scarcity issues. Reuse is at the heart of such challenges. But, as Lux notes, such efforts also have an upside. Investments in water management solutions ‘often result in long-term cost savings and demonstrate a company’s commitment to sustainability.’

Membranes

The most frequently chosen solution involves the use of new membranes. Many companies revert to such solutions. Biological solutions are popular as well. Like membrane bioreactors or microbial fuel cells. A problem that recently surfaced is the removal of PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances). These substances are very stable in the environment and start to pose a serious problem. Lux Research writes that ‘lithium extraction’ will be a successful technology successful here. Or filtration, using functionalized ring-shaped molecules; like a Dutch research team recently showed.

According Lux, industrial wastewater management is going through a phase of commercialization. Worldwide investment level is over $ 500 million now. But although present developments bode well for the environment, the company doesn’t figure that research will ever find a silver bullet. Or perhaps it should be ‘integrated solutions’, where cleaning technologies go hand in hand with water savings. Water scarcity poses problems that can only be solved in an integrated way.

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