The market for industrial water treatment technologies geared to managing wastewater is expected to grow 50% by 2020 as water resources become increasingly strained, according to a new report from the UN Water and published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Maximizing wastewater’s potential as a valuable and sustainable resource, however, will require overcoming certain challenges. These include creating suitable legal and regulatory frameworks, appropriate financing mechanisms, lack of knowledge, capacity, data and information about wastewater, and social acceptance.
Advanced Technologies to Treat Wastewater
The report states that more than 80% of the world’s wastewater, and more than 95% in some least developed countries, is released to the environment without treatment. Once discharged into water bodies, wastewater is either diluted, transported downstream or infiltrated into aquifers, where it can affect the quality (and therefore the availability) of freshwater supplies. Wastewater is an undervalued; when managed well, it can be a sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable by-products the report, Wastewater: The Untapped Resource, maintains.
The latest technological innovations for wastewater treatment include:
- Membrane filtration
- Membrane bioreactors (MBRs)
- Microbial fuel cells
- Biological treatment processes
- Wastewater monitoring and control systems
‘Just Good Business’
Improved wastewater management is good business, says Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO. “As an essential component of a circular economy, wastewater use and by-product recovery can generate new business opportunities and help to recover the costs of new, innovative and adapted installations, allowing us to recover energy, nutrients, metals and other by-products,” she points out.
The manufacturing sector stands to gain the most from strong wastewater management practices, as it is the greatest generator of wastewater among the main industrial sectors – and the volumes of industrial wastewater are expected to double by 2025, according to the report.