Clean Water Supply

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Part
01

Clean Water Supply

WATER RECYCLING MARKET SIZE

  • As with materials like aluminum and plastic, water can be recycled and reused as well. "Water recycling not only conserves the existing water resources but also reduces the necessity for new water supplies. It offers financial and resource savings."
  • Recycled water is used in a variety of contexts and sectors, such as agriculture, industrial processes, domestic use, and landscape irrigation.
  • "The North America water & wastewater treatment market size was valued at USD 103.59 billion in 2017 and is expected to be valued at 119.56 billion by the end of 2025."
  • In the United States, the sector using the most significant amount of recycled water was municipal, "accounting for $65.34 billion of the overall market size".
  • The "global water recycle and reuse market was valued at approximately $13.71 million in 2017 and is expected to generate revenue of around $32.25 billion by the end of 2024, growing at a CAGR of around 13.5% between 2018 and 2024".

CLEAN WATER

Sources and Daily Use

  • More than 85 percent of people in the United States - almost 270 million people in total - "rely on public water supply every year".
  • Most often, that water comes from surface water (such as lakes, rivers, or reservoirs) and groundwater "which is treated before delivery to consumers".
  • Specifically, more than 75 percent of the public water supply comes from surface water, with the remainder coming from groundwater.
  • The other 15 percent of people who don't rely on public water supplies get their water from private groundwater wells.
  • On average, each American citizen uses about 88 gallons of water each day, including for drinking, cooking, bathing, and household chores such as washing dishes or doing laundry. This adds up to more than 40 billion gallons of water being used in the United States each day.

Current Water Scarcity

  • Already, several regions in the United States are facing the effects of water scarcity and/or other issues relating to the availability of clean water. Several states throughout the country are encountering water shortages which are expected to worsen in the coming years, including California and New Mexico, among others.
  • In fact, while most conversation around water scarcity in the United States tends to focus on Flint, New Mexico is currently the only U.S. "state with 'extremely high' pressures on its water availability. The state’s score is on par with the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and Eritrea in Africa, the World Resources Institute (WRI) found".
  • While New Mexico is ranked as the most at-risk state in the country though, several others are also facing water shortages, including Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, Wyoming, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Aside from New Mexico, which is ranked as being at "extremely high" risk, each of these states is ranked at "medium-high" and "high" risk due to water shortages.
  • While the lack of resources for water does pose a significant threat to the United States though, access to clean water and effective purifying systems is also having a negative impact on several regions and populations.
  • Because of "inequality and infrastructure decay, millions of Americans drink unsafe tap water from systems that violate health standards", with Flint being the most well-known example.
  • Ultimately, "investigative journalists found that more than 30 cities botched water quality testing, following the same flawed procedures that led to criminal charges against government employees in Flint".
  • In addition to concerns about availability and supply, the United States is also facing a crisis of affordability, with many populations being unable to maintain their home water supply due to increasing prices resulting from declining water supply. "Researchers claim that certain climate changes are threatening the levels of major bodies of water like the Colorado River and Lake Mead, which in turn drives up water bills."
  • A study from Food and Water Watch "found that water service has been cut off to an estimated 1.4 million people living in more than a half-million American households" as a result of late or missing payments.
  • "The cities with the highest shut-off rates, according to the report, were Detroit, New Orleans, Springdale, Arkansas, and Oklahoma City. Among these cities, at least 10 percent of the residents had lost their water service for some period of time, and in Oklahoma City, the most impacted city, 23 percent lost their access to clean, running water in 2017."

Projected Water Scarcity

  • Ultimately, it's estimated that within the next 50 years, "nearly half of the 204 fresh water basins in the United States may not be able to meet the monthly water demand". There are two causes for this projected shortage: population increases and water supply decreases.
  • "Projected climate change affects both rain patterns and temperatures. While rainfall is expected to increase in some parts of the US, the southern Great Plains and parts of the South won’t be so lucky. The water basins rely on rainfall to feed the rivers and tributaries that flow into them. Separately, more water will evaporate from reservoirs and streams as the climate gets warmer, further chipping away at the water supply."
  • More specifically, "around 50 years from now, many U.S. regions may see water supplies reduced by a third of their current size, while demand continues to increase".
  • "A recent analysis of 12m wells in the US found that as groundwater supplies are depleted, people and industry are digging deeper. Researchers called the trend an “unsustainable stopgap” that is only available to those who can afford it and where hydrologic conditions allow."
  • Within five years, the World Economic Forum and other studies have warned "that two-thirds of the global population could be living in water-stressed countries".

GREYWATER

Overview

  • One way that experts have recommended saving water is to recycle "greywater" - or "gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines" - for use around the house and garden.
  • "Greywater can be defined as any domestic wastewater produced, excluding sewage. The main difference between greywater and sewage (or blackwater) is the organic loading. Sewage has a much larger organic loading compared to greywater."
  • "The average person uses between 20 and 45 gallons per day for simple tasks such as bathing or showering, and using the washing machine." Ultimately, about 60 percent of the water used in a household each day would be considered greywater.

Uses

  • Specifically, greywater can be used for "laundry and toilet flushing, and also irrigation of plants. Treated greywater can be used to irrigate both food and non-food producing plants. The nutrients in the greywater (such as phosphorus and nitrogen) provide an excellent food source for these plants".
  • This reuse of water which would otherwise reach the sewage system helps to reduce the percentage of clean water being wasted, and reduces the amount of wastewater in the sewage system.
  • "Aside from the obvious benefits of saving water (and money on your water bill), reusing your greywater keeps it out of the sewer or septic system, thereby reducing the chance that it will pollute local water bodies. Reusing greywater for irrigation reconnects urban residents and our backyard gardens to the natural water cycle."
  • Though greywater is a pollutant in fresh water sources, the nutrients found in it can be beneficial to gardens and though it can appear to be dirty, "it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard".
  • One report suggests that using greywater just to flush toilets could reduce potable (clean/drinkable) water use by 30 percent.

Treatment

  • Prior to being reused, greywater must be treated. "There are many ways by which to treat greywater so that it can be re-used. The various methods used must be safe from a health point of view and not harmful to the environment."
  • Typically, greywater is used and treated on an individual level, rather than by municipalities or other public water sources. This means that each person can choose how to treat theirs based on their needs and options.

BLACKWATER

  • Unlike greywater, blackwater - that is, water used for "any waste from toilets or urinals" - cannot be purified or reused for other purposes.
  • Blackwater "is defined either as treated or untreated (raw), and contains disease-causing bacteria and viruses that can result in human illness from direct contact, or by consumption of affected fish and shellfish. It contributes to nutrient build-up in ecosystems that result in changes to habitat and the proliferation of nuisance pest species".
  • Each time someone uses the toilet, generating blackwater, between four and nine litres of water are lost (depending on how many times they flush and the size of the toilet).
  • "Older toilets installed before 1992 can use between three and seven gallons of water per flush. In comparison, federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.5 gallons per flush."
  • Research has shown that the majority of people use the bathroom 8-10 times each day, including both bowel movements and urination. Assuming a loss of six to seven litres of water each time, that's an average of between 48 and 70 litres of water each day per person (calculated by multiplying the number of uses per day by the number of litres per flush).
  • Given that there are approximately 329,197,982 people in the United States (as of this writing), this means that an estimated 15.8 to 23 billion litres of blackwater are generated each day in the U.S. (calculated by multiplying the population size by the number of litres generated by each person).
  • While blackwater itself cannot be used, the use of greywater in toilets can help to reduce the amount of potable water lost each day, potentially helping to reduce the severity of water concerns in many regions.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Despite extensive research into the subject, we were unable to determine the market size for water recycling relative to commercial buildings and agriculture specifically. In attempting to locate or calculate an estimate of this data, we turned first to industry reports both for the commercial and agricultural sectors, in the hopes that a report had been published on the subject. As well, we reviewed industry reports focused on water reuse and recycling. Unfortunately, while this method did provide a market size and other valuable information for and about the wastewater treatment market as a whole, no data could be found specific to the commercial or agricultural industries.

We next turned to research studies and publications on the subject of water conservation and reuse, in the hopes that one of these reports would have looked into the economic impacts and/or benefits of water recycling as it applied to specific industries. However, while this again provided a great deal of information on water recycling in general, no data specific to the commercial or agricultural industries could be found.

Finally, we turned to news reports, articles, and publications on the subject of water scarcity in the United States. Our hope was that the subject of water recycling and reuse might be addressed in these articles, particularly as the commercial and agricultural sectors are two of the largest users of water. However, while we were again able to find a great deal of information on the subject in general, no data could be found relative to the market size for water recycling in the commercial or agricultural industries.
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