Equipment Manufacturers Discuss Opportunities for Growth

Seizing Opportunities in Water Amid the Recession" was the theme of the WWEMA 103rd Annual Meeting held mid-November in Florida.

By Dawn Kristof Champney

"Seizing Opportunities in Water Amid the Recession" was the theme of the WWEMA 103rd Annual Meeting held mid-November in Florida. Senior executives from industry's leading water and wastewater solution providers had an opportunity to hear experts from various disciplines discuss current market conditions and future trends that present opportunities for growth in the water and wastewater sectors, even in light of a struggling economy. Here is a sampling of what was presented at this year's event.

Tom Decker, Vice President of Brown and Caldwell, kicked off the meeting with an insightful presentation on The Water and Wastewater Market: Outlook or Look Out!

"The industry is suffering from ‘stimulus hangover' with projects having been pushed forward in 2009-2010 in order to take advantage of the $6 billion made available for water and wastewater projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," he observed.

Looking forward, he noted that $3.3 trillion will need to be spent on water and wastewater infrastructure in the U.S. over the next 20 years, as compared to $1.24 trillion spent in the past 45 years, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Putting it into perspective, while the U.S. water and wastewater market stands at $107 billion, the worldwide market has reached the $500 billion market, Decker noted, indicating that the greatest potential for growth lies outside U.S. borders.

How to pay for these needs was the topic addressed by Jason Mumm, Founder and President of StepWise Utility Advisors, in his presentation titled Water Industry Trends: Threat or Opportunity? He explained that between 2000 and 2010, water and sewer bills outpaced CPI inflation by more than double, having increased 62% in that time period. Household incomes, on the contrary, decreased 7%, making water and sewer bills unaffordable for the bottom 20% of households - 23 million in total - when measured against the EPA affordability criteria.

"With utilities facing increased costs in labor and capital, they will have to turn to technology, which offers the greatest potential for increased productivity, cost control, reduced labor inputs and more effective asset management," stated Mumm.

Innovations in Water and Wastewater Technology was the focus of another presentation by Glen Daigger, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at CH2M Hill. He spoke about major trends transforming the world of water, including the shift from water abundance to scarcity, the move from rural to urban settings, unsustainable urban utilities, poorly understood impacts of climate change, financial risks of water by businesses, global water trade quantified by virtual water, a transition from "collected" to "manufactured" water, turning wastewater into a resource, and the fact that urban sanitation continues to lag drinking water supply.

"We have to manage water differently," he stated, taking an integrated water and resource management approach.

Components of this approach include water conservation, distributed stormwater management (low impact development and rainwater harvesting as examples), distributed water treatment, water reclamation and recycling, heat recovery, organic management for energy production, nutrient recovery and source separation. To accomplish this will require embracing new technologies and overcoming barriers to their use, he observed, entailing reform of the current educational system, greater collaboration among professional societies, revised codes and standards, adapting legacy systems and regulatory reform.

On a positive note, Daigger stated that the wastewater treatment market could be five times larger than it is today due to use of advanced technologies like membranes, ultraviolet disinfection and advanced oxidation that are enabling needed change in the way we manage water, including the ability to extract energy and nutrients in the treatment process.

Speaking on the topic of nutrients was Eric Stoermer, President and CEO of Environmental Operating Solutions, Inc. He highlighted the nutrient management challenges facing the Nation by observing that of the 26% of rivers and streams assessed to date, 110,000 miles are currently impaired by nutrients. Similarly, of the 46% of lakes and reservoirs that have been assessed, 4.7 million acres are impaired by nutrients.

"This has resulted in a patchwork of nutrient regulations being established or considered in geographic regions across the country," he noted, from the Chesapeake Bay, Narragansett Bay and the Mississippi River Basin, to select states including Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Colorado, and New Hampshire.

He predicted that "nutrients represent a significant market opportunity for technology providers offering better, faster and cheaper ways to manage them, with growth coming in geographic waves." WW

About the author: Dawn Kristof Champney is President of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers, a non-profit trade organization founded in 1908 to represent the interests of companies that manufacture products sold to the potable water and wastewater treatment industries. Its mission is to inform, educate and provide leadership on issues which affect the worldwide water and wastewater equipment industry.

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