Water, water everywhere but, for some, not a drop to spare

Jul 01, 2008 | 06:11 AM |

Fresh water is becoming a valuable commodity. The amount of fresh water worldwide is declining at the same time that the population is exploding—on track to reach 9.39 billion by 2050 from 6.68 billion currently, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

One way to ensure that there is enough potable water to accommodate population growth, as well as to meet industrial and agricultural demand for clean water, is through water reuse and desalination technologies.

"There is the same amount of water on this planet as there was at the beginning of time. All water is reused, but through technology we can speed up Mother Nature's process," said Zachary Dorsey, a spokesman for the Alexandria, Va.-based WateReuse Association.

Houston-based water consultant Tom Pankratz, whose clients includes the International Desalination Association (IDA) and Global Water Intelligence, said that demand for such technologies has been growing steadily at about 8 to 10 percent a year globally, "really spiking" in the past few years.

The installed capacity of desalination plants, which are used not just to purify saltwater but also brackish water and wastewater, totaled around 46 million cubic meters (12.15 billion gallons) a day last year, up 8 percent from 42.6 million cubic meters (11.25 billion gallons) in 2006 and 15.3 percent ahead of 39.9 million cubic meters (10.54 billion gallons) in 2005, Pankratz said. That is expected to increase 12 percent to 51.5 million cubic meters (13.6 billion gallons) a day this year and another 13 percent to 58.1 million cubic meters (15.35 billion gallons) in 2009. By 2015, that figure is expected to reach 97.5 million cubic meters (25.76 billion gallons) a day.....

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