There were two interesting recent headlines which support the view that we are approaching a tipping point in relation to water scarcity and water resources.
Firstly, Orange County, California was awarded the Stockholm Industry Award for its pioneering work to inject treated wastewater into deep wells to re-charge ground water aquifers. This water can then be extracted at a later date for water supply. What you are seeing here is the start of a convergence in advanced wastewater treatment and water supply. They say that water has no memory, but the public certainly does, and they don’t like the thought that what comes out of their tap, might in the not too distant past have disappeared down their toilet. Aquifer injection provides that one degree of separation.
However water is the ultimate re-cyclable commodity and re-cycle it we must if we are to avoid some of the alarming predictions reported at the Goldman Sachs ‘Top Five Risks Conference’ Goldman Sachs reported that a catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves. The report said water was the “petroleum for the next century”, offering huge rewards for investors who know how to play the infrastructure boom.
So how exactly do you go about playing this boom? Goldman Sachs suggest eyeing companies that produce or service filtration equipment, ultraviolet disinfection, desalination technology using membranes, automated water meters and specialist niches in water reuse.
Water re-cycling is going to be huge, particularly in the sunshine belt between California and Florida. Groundwater, in the context of our lifespans at least, is a non-renewable resource. If you drain it down, it can take hundreds of years to re-charge. Nicholas (Lord) Stern, author of the UK Government’s Stern Review on the economics of climate change, warned that underground aquifers could run dry at the same time as melting glaciers play havoc with fresh supplies of usable water.
There are a myriad of companies out there that can take salt out of water, but if someone can comes up with a) the midas touch to turn the briny waste produced into a product, or b) a lower energy method of doing it they will be on to a winner.
Paul O’ Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.