Drinking water homeland security issues continue to draw market innovators

Drinking water homeland security is a rapidly emerging space as a consequence of 9/11, according to a recent report from Frost & Sullivan. Since the tragic terrorist attacks that took place in 2001, the homeland security industry has attracted unprecedented level of attention. Since water supply utilities are considered critical infrastructure, the need to protect the nation's drinking water systems from potential terrorist attack has also become a focus of public attention...

By Renee Chu, Research Analyst, Frost & Sullivan Environment Group

SAN ANTONIO, TX, Jan. 16, 2006 -- Drinking water homeland security is a rapidly emerging space as a consequence of 9/11. Since the tragic terrorist attacks that took place in 2001, the homeland security industry has attracted unprecedented level of attention. Since water supply utilities are considered critical infrastructure, the need to protect the nation's drinking water systems from potential terrorist attack has also become a focus of public attention.

Current research activities primarily aim at preparing the nation to deal with potential biological or chemical attacks in order to minimize possible hazards to the public. Much in the way of resources and research focus has been directed towards the development of fast, effective monitoring and detection technologies that could be deployed at a moment's notice.

A wide range of existing water quality monitoring products available in the marketplace could be repositioned for homeland security applications. Many companies are also targeting the homeland security market niche by developing products that cater specifically to water security applications. Several rapid detection and sensor technologies currently available in the marketplace are originally developed for military security applications. As such, these products often consist of features including rapid response, portability and ease of use that are ideal for domestic water security applications. New technologies are also emerging to provide continuous water quality monitoring by way of measuring the responses and activities of surrogate aquatic organisms to indicate the presence of harmful substances. In the near future, the market could be expected to see an increasing numbers of manufacturers in the national defense sector participating in the water security space by leveraging on existing technological know-how in national defense.

Although there is no shortage of public and industry interests in the water security arena, the drinking water security industry still suffers from a lack of uniform standards and methodologies to be applied across all sectors of the market. At the present time, the needs and technologies available in this market remain highly fluid, with market demands primarily driven by actual security threats and funding availability. Although a strongly perceived need exists for the implementation of preventative security measures at drinking water utilities, current funding limitation leaves the water security sector to contend with other pressing issues such as deteriorating infrastructure within the water industry, as well as other homeland security needs beyond the water arena.

Figure 1 provides a list of key challenges facing the drinking water security technology market.

Nevertheless, continuous progress in research and development is made possible by a $10 million, five-year research grant, provided to eight universities by the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency in October 2005. This grant is intended to facilitate the development of danger-detection and warning methods for public drinking water systems. The funding has helped create a research "Water Village" facility called the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment, which is being built at the environmental research lab at the University of Arizona. This lab is designed to be a "one-of-a-kind" venue to test and measure waterborne pathogens in near-real-life conditions, and for collaboration between industry, academia, engineering and environmental science, with the ultimate goal of providing consumers with safe, healthy drinking water.

Currently, utilities' ability to undertake chemical, biological, and radiological monitoring of contamination is limited largely by the lack of reliable and affordable technology, and the lack of guidance or experience to interpret monitoring results. While development of guidelines, instruments, and methodologies for chemical, biological, and radiological monitoring for contamination is already an evolving area of research, more progress is needed to provide for more direct and real time methods for contaminant monitoring and interpretation of monitoring data.

Frost & Sullivan's Research Service "U.S. Drinking Water Homeland Security Technologies - Strategy Study of an Emerging Market" is available here.

About the Author: Renee Chu is a research analyst specializing in environmental technologies with Frost & Sullivan, a market research and growth and management consulting company based in San Antonio, TX, and with offices worldwide. For more information, contact Molly Norton at mnorton@frost.com or visit www.environmental.frost.com.

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Also from Frost's Water Portal, see (free registration may be required):
-- "Ultrafiltration; Microfiltration and Reverse Osmosis Technology" (Published: Dec. 30, 2005)
-- "New & Emerging Water & Wastewater Treatment Technologies & Practices in the U.S." (Published: Dec. 28, 2005)
-- "Technical Insights: Emerging Technology Developments in Process and Laboratory Analytical Instruments" (Published: Dec. 27, 2005)
-- "Southern European Membrane Separation Systems Markets" (Published: Dec. 23, 2005)
-- "U.S. Sludge & Odor Treatment Equipment Markets" (Published: Nov. 28, 2005)

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