New report predicts water demand to exceed supply in less than 20 years

Water is necessary for sustainable economic development around the world. At least two thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water, but less than one percent is usable fresh water and the supply is diminishing. Today, SRI Consulting (SRIC) released its new report Water and Sustainability in the 21st Century, which forecasts that in less than twenty years global demand for water is expected to exceed supply by fifty-six percent. Seventy-one percent of the demand for water...

MENLO PARK, CA, Nov. 6, 2007 -- Water is necessary for sustainable economic development around the world. At least two thirds of the earth's surface is covered with water, but less than one percent is usable fresh water and the supply is diminishing. Today, SRI Consulting (SRIC) released its new report Water and Sustainability in the 21st Century, which forecasts that in less than twenty years global demand for water is expected to exceed supply by fifty-six percent.

Seventy-one percent of the demand for water is for agricultural applications, twenty percent is used in industry and nine percent is for domestic use. The report demonstrates that along with conservation, reuse and supply management efforts, fresh water supplies must increase. Desalination, the removal of salts and other minerals from seawater, brackish, waste, brine or contaminated rivers, is the most common method to make water drinkable. Desalination technology is underutilized, producing less than one-half of one percent of the world's fresh water needs. As a result estimates for potential global growth in the desalination market are modest. In the geographic areas with the greatest need for fresh water, the cost of technology and distribution are the main barriers to adopting desalination methods.

Ron Smith, Senior Consultant at SRIC and author of the report, commented, "An integrated eco-system approach that includes water conservation, reuse, redistribution, and the manufacture of new water is required for sustainable water resources." He added, "The situation is complex and not all water uses require the same quality. While ultra pure water is sometimes required, agriculture requires medium quality and water for manufacturing purposes can be low quality."

SRIC's Water and Sustainability in the 21st Century report provides a foundation for understanding water supply problems and includes detailed information on sustainable water resources. The report defines water quality, identifies threats to the water supply, and compares water management systems. Global water supply and quality are covered by region, including the environmental and ecological effects of water scarcity. Water treatment and reuse methods are examined, including distribution networks, decentralized and satellite treatment systems and specific applications and issues in agriculture and industry. The report concludes with the advantages and disadvantages of the major desalination processes along with analyses of water manufacturing alternatives.

Bob Davenport, Director of SRIC's Safe & Sustainable Chemicals group, commented, "The data in this report reinforce the need for companies to have informed water management strategies. Companies cannot assume that water of adequate quality will always be available. For example, in manufacturing, strategic plans should include tactics for reusing water from processes multiple times. Desalination and possibly more aggressive purification methods may be required depending on the application."

SRIC's 223 page Water and Sustainability in the 21st Century report contains comprehensive global coverage and provides an understanding of the current global water supply, water quality, technologies to reclaim and reuse, and long-term outlook.

SRI Consulting is a business research service for the global chemical industry. This report was developed by SRI Consulting's Safe & Sustainable Chemicals group, which provides in-depth, independent technical and business advisories for the chemical and energy industries.

###

More in Drinking Water