Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine

The Next 50 Years

By Donald A. Mounce and WC&P Technical Review Committee

WC&P remains committed to and proud of our Technical Review Committee members for their dedicated insight to the profession and the magazine. They are the international leading experts in their areas and are the heart of our success.

As part of our 50th anniversary of publication excellence in the POU/POE marketplace, we asked them to polish up their ‘crystal balls’ and tell us what they see in the next 50 years. The following are their comments…concluded with an idea of my own.

Critical Commodity by Greg Reyneke, Intermountain Softwater, Inc.

Water will become one of the most critical and valuable human commodities in the next 50 years. As our global population continues to expand at a rapid pace and, as western health standards are established throughout underdeveloped regions, there will be a massive increase in need and demand for clean drinking water.

Wars will be fought, fortunes made and lost and people will die because of the need for clean water. Issues and events that are most likely to occur, in my opinion, include:

  • Irrefutable proof that xenoestrogens and other endocrine disruptors have affected all municipal water sources, causing permanent disruptions to the global food supply and incalculable long-term health issues.
  • US EPA adoption of carbon emission tracking/control under the Safe Drinking Water Act, causing massive increase in administrative/enforcement expenses, consequently an increase in net cost of delivered drinking water.
  • Class-action lawsuits against water softener manufacturers/distributors for inadequate protection for homeowners against bacterial contamination in water softeners and filters.
  • LEED credit approval for water improvement devices like scale control and other filtration devices installed in commercial buildings.
  • Development and adoption of a ‘water quality/pollution offset’ scheme similar to current ‘carbon emission offset’ schemes.
  • Increases in dissolved CO2 will cause massive corrosion problems for all US water distribution infrastructure, further exacerbating existing issues and necessitating replacement/repair of piping, control valves and storage tanks.
  • Federal prohibition against the use of non-electronic/metered ion exchange water softeners.
  • Changes in IPC/UPC/BOCA codes to further clarify sizing and installation of water softeners to minimize bacterial growth issues (bigger isn’t always better).
  • Outright local bans on residential ion-exchange softeners in many areas.
  • Many local water utilities will suffer massive budget shortfalls, causing lapses in quality control, repairs and the output quality of delivered water.
  • Whole-house water filtration devices will become ubiquitous – no longer a luxury.
  • Public pressure will cause discontinuation of fluoridation at city water supplies.
  • Increase in credibility and prestige of the WQA as a non-governmental entity.
  • Increased requirement for training credentials, apprenticeship and continuing education of water treatment specialists at a state level. (WQA’s CWS credentials will be mandatory.)
  • Climate change will cause ‘desertification’ of many areas, putting inordinate pressure on subsurface wells, further straining the global food supply.
  • Further privatization of water utilities in the US, pushing the price of delivered potable water ever higher.
  • US EPA drinking water quality guidelines will become so strict to the point of being draconian and will include provisions for the ‘environmental impact’ of the treatment process.
  • Delivered municipal water will be provided in two qualities – ‘human consumption’ and ‘utility water.’ Human consumption water will be extremely expensive, causing an increase in the sale of high-end filtration and purification devices to allow homeowners/business to purify their utility water to acceptable taste and quality standards.

Technological breakthroughs I’m hoping for include:

  • Ultra low energy nanofiltration membranes (20psi range).
  • Truly ’salt-free’ softening through electrical ion exchange.
  • Improvements in bio-reactor (BRM) technology – bacteria to metabolize specific contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, chlorides etc…) on a small scale at an affordable price.
  • Nanobots to more fully explore and map aquifers.
  • Development of more efficient and sanitary household graywater/blackwater recovery and reuse systems.
  • Development of low-cost, per-watt solar panels to power desalination plants in desert areas.
  • Development of carbon nanotube technology to safely and cost- effectively remove pathogenic bacteria from water in underdevelped areas.

I am excited for the future of the water industry in general, and hope that public policy makers have the foresight to keep government incursion into the industry at a minimum.

I encourage leaders in our industry to take the initiative in designing and promoting technologies that provide affordable, safe drinking water with a minimal net environmental impact.

And I encourage dealers to maintain the highest ethical standards in providing their clients a better quality of life through better water.

Quality and Distribution, by Rick Andrew, NSF International

I think issues of water conservation will become larger.  These issues will center around treating water of poorer and poorer quality for use as drinking water, as well as limiting impact on water sources.

Also, I think the trend of identifying emerging contaminants and developing a better understanding of their potential health effects will continue.  This trend will lead to opportunities for the water treatment industry.

The ability to deliver safe drinking water to more and more people worldwide will continue to be an issue.  Better cost-effective solutions will continue to be developed to address this need.

Finally, I believe there will be new technologies that we have not yet conceived of that will fill some of these needs.

Looking Back to Look Forward by Shannon Murphy, Watts Premier, Inc.

Being asked to put together a piece on what is in store for the next 50 years in the water treatment industry makes one take some time to see where we have come from in the past 50. The year was 1959, Castro came in to power, the Barbie doll was just launched, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, thus the American flag was revised to the version we know today. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway and the average annual salary was $5,000 (USD).

There was no Safe Drinking Water Act and, for that matter, no US EPA. NSF International was the National Sanitation Foundation, mainly involved with only the food service industry.

WQA was still years away from conception.There were no standards for drinking water treatment devices and RO was not even on the radar for water treatment.

Over the past 50 years we have had: the development of the RO membrane; creation of the US EPA on December 2, 1970; President Ford signed the Safe Drinking Water Act December 16, 1974; and the NSF Standards group formally developed NSF Standard 42, which relied heavily on Food & Drug Administrations (FDA) guidelines and CFR references over formulation reviews.

Over these past 50 years the indusrty has developed high performance resins and valves that have greatly increased the efficiency of softeners, RO systems that economically fit under the kitchen sink with automatic shut off valves and more recently, nanotechnology in both the carbon and UF membrane industry sectors.

This is a large brush stroke over the past 50 years, but if you think about it–and the fact that technology and product development is speeding up exponentially due to things like computers and the global economy–it is incredible to think of the things that are yet to be developed and come in to play over the next 50 years.

Some thoughts on the next 50–We have seen and will continue to see a push towards green and environmentally friendly products. As popultions continue to put stress on the ecosystems (as I write this in Phoenix I am reminded almost daily of this) there will be a greater focus on green products, recycling opprotunities, catchment systems, solar water heating and water conservation developments like zero waste RO.

Regulatory pressures on federal and state levels will continue to grow. We are witnessing some of this recently with the increasingly strict lead and arsenic issues coming out of California and the POE market regarding certification. Emerging water issues like endocrine disruptors and personal care products will continue to be examined and as lab technology and research continues to improve, the US EPA will add to the list of regulated items on the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Pressures on the salinity issue will push for the continued development of ’non-salt’ water conditioners and, with that, the development of an ANSI Standard to separate out the real from the snake oil. While we are talking about the SDWA and regulations, the infrastructure of the water distribution system here continues to age, and with that comes significant health and monetary implications that we as a society will have to face in order to rectify.

There will be new and exciting emerging technologies. We are seeing some of these now in their infancy, including UF systems and advancements in carbon nano-tube technology. New and emerging technologies will be driven by an ever growing burden on the fresh water supply and the need to treat many of the problems we will face as our fresh water supplies continue to be stressed.

With these stresses, increased regulatory and cost burdens associated with fresh water are not unfathomable. The industry may consider moving to a decentralized treatment program where ‘good’ water is delivered to the home for all the working water needs and each home is equipped with its own potable water treatment device. I also believe we will see increased regulatory oversight on private wells, as these are completely unregulated and highly susceptible to numerous contamination issues.

Lastly, we must not forget the global water market. Emerging and developing countries will have an untold number of drinking water hurdles to overcome. Many of these countries will be looking to industrialized nations like the US for the means to overcome these monumental developmental needs.

Better Understanding by Dr. Sue B. Rivera, MIOX Corporation

Within the next 50 years, I believe that the public will, by necessity, have a better understanding of water issues.  These issues include water management, water quality and potentially, water rights law. 

The greater understanding will probably come when citizens can no longer easily access the existing level of water quality and quantity they now enjoy. Industry experts will have refined the current models for water footprint analysis. 

Hopefully, these models and the lessons learned during their development will be useful in solving the water shortage and water quality issues. These will likely transcend all the way down to the POE/POU sector.  

The Future of Water by Larry Henke, IONEX, Inc.

When thinking of the future of water and water treatment, it is tempting to drown in the possibilities of scientific and technology advance. In checking out the scientific literature, we see new methods for testing contaminants, the discovery of new and novel harmful chemicals (both organic and inorganic) and technological wizardry to defeat and remove them from drinking water.

Testing and analytical techniques allow us to measure to parts per trillion and to rapidly identify new infectious microbes. Even so, a concentration of one part per trillion in water can still have almost a trillion molecules; microbes are both resilient and inventive.

New filtering and removal processes will doubtless be discovered and new techniques for remediation that we can not possibly now imagine will become real. Perhaps a new method will replace chlorine, ozone and UV for microbiological inactivation; new materials may form membranes. But these will be challenged by new and dangerous creations of both man and nature.

We can be certain that water will be needed by whatever population we have in the future. That population will continue to pollute the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans to a greater degree.

For those of us who are—as one journal called me ‘superannuated’—there is a small comfort in knowing that despite all the miracle innovations of modern science, water will continue to be treated with humble materials such as air, sand and sunlight: air to oxidize the water, filters that mimic the earth and lamps that imitate sunlight.

What’s in Store For the Next 50 Years, by G. Edwin Battenberg, Hague Quality Water International

The biggest problem the US will face in the next half century is sufficient fresh water in the American Southwest. With demand outpacing replenishment of natural supplies from our northern Pacific and Mountain regions–where snow melt contributes to surface water and replenishes aquifers–there are those who believe that some large cities may experience major population shifts by 2020 if water use continues to exceed replenishment rates.

Las Vegas, NV is a very high profile example of this very problem. All one has to do is observe the white ‘bathtub-like ring’ around Lake Mead that is growing deeper with each passing year and the urgency of this diminished water supply becomes very clear. With the first wave of Baby Boomers transitioning into retirement and moving to warmer climates, population growth in southern areas of the country is putting a serious strain on available water supply and this trend will likely continue for the next thirty years.

Desalination of seawater will be given much more consideration due to the promise of recent technological advances in converting seawater to fresh water. There are several installations in the US that were designed to supplement the natural resources in areas suffering from drought conditions.

When you look at the US on a map and realize that it is surrounded on three side by oceans, it seems reasonable to me that suitable coastal areas would be good take points for desalination plants. Interfaced with current infrastructure, this water would alleviate drought conditions not only in the southwest but also in other areas recently affected by severe drought.

Northwestern Georgia was crippled in 2008 due to low annual rainfall and was rescued by a neighboring county with access to a large lake. A new pumping station and pipeline were installed to bring an additional one million to three million gallons per day of water to those thirsty communities.

I believe that there is a way to not only develop these desalination plants and pumping stations, but the real benefit will be in generating power by concentrating salts from these desalination plants. This challenge should peak the interest of major engineering firms with the brain trust and investors to develop new technologies to bring these plants from drawing board to reality.

Finding a way to generate power to run the plant and pump station is another challenge that should be integrated into this type of process where concentrated salts could be collected in a ‘NaCell’ (sodium cell) where this highly conductive fluid could somehow be harnessed to generate electricity. Excess volume within this NaCell could be dewatered for salt recovery before returning the water back to the ocean.

If conductivity (mineral salts) in water can energize a low-voltage lamp to indicate exhaustion of a mixed-bed portable exchange deionizer tank, then I believe there should be a way to generate power from highly concentrated sea salt. An electric eel has special organs that can give an electrical shock. Perhaps there might be away to study this phenomenon and use that organ array as a model to figure how to translate the natural ability of this fish into a functioning electric power plant.

As vast as our oceans are, perhaps there is a way to generate power from the conductivity of seawater to power US Navy ships, off shore drilling rigs and seaport communities. Imagine how silent the US Navy would be with a propulsion system that is run by converting electrical conductivity of seawater to energy…talk about a renewable resource!

Coastal power plants could be constructed to feed into existing electrical grids. If lighthouses can be built to withstand the fury of coastal weather conditions, I believe these power plants could be engineered to be equal to or better than structural standards of a lighthouse.

Utilizing kinetic energy of moving water, a water-powered generator could be used to power the electric motors required to operate desalination plants and pumping stations. This is how flowing water is used where dams hold back vast amounts of water then release it at specific rates to generate electricity for some of our major cities. With seawater intake points; perhaps the whole of the process would create a synergism where a sort of perpetual flow of seawater could create a hybrid-style of hydroelectric power plant.

Advancements in rain water catchments and reuse will lead to a standard throughout the US and the world where homes above a specific footprint/roof area and commercial establishments will be required to include rain water catchments to provide irrigation water and thereby conserve on utility and ground water sources. Companies will emerge and establish operations specifically to cater to this industry.

Purification of rainwater will eventually be allowed due to demand and improvements in filtration and monitoring will ensure only effectively treated water for potable use. Replenishment of water sources such as lakes and aquifers will eventually return these sources to healthy levels.

Additionally, dams originally thought to improve communities will be taken down due to recent studies of the environment and how these dams have virtually destroyed the ecosystem. We will learn from past mistakes by not living ‘heavy’ on the land so this great country can heal her self.

There is much that we will do in the next fifty years that will significantly reduce landfill waste including a strong concerted effort to recycle plastics and other materials that can be reused for packaging and other consumer products. The water conditioning industry can contribute greatly in this effort by establishing recycle programs for disposable cartridges and other plastic components returned by their dealers for a conservation credit.

These programs could be integrated with waste collection in their local municipalities as well. Someone will step to the plate and clean up the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a huge floating dump of plastic bottles in our oceans. This small country-sized floating mass of debris could be collected and reduced in mass aboard ship and loaded on barges to be transported to a plastics recycling facility.

The natural ocean currents have rounded up this mess and are holding it for someone to clean up. We are a very innovative society and I know that there is a group out there who will find a way to eliminate this eyesore and turn this waste into other consumer goods.

What’s in Store?, by Jim Lauia, Amiad Filtration Systems

Over the next 50 years, we’re going to see a number of trends in the water treatment industry that will stem from increasing demand for scarce supplies of water from municipal, industrial and agricultural users.

Global climate change is likely to lead to a redistribution of water resources in both time and location, for which society will need to compensate. Meanwhile, the world’s growing population and global improvements in the standard of living will increase demand for water in all directions, creating competition among home, farm and industrial use, as well as among states, countries and regions.

That competition for water will manifest itself in trends like:

  • Traditional lines between the various uses of water will be blurred. Where we now see water supplies as agricultural, municipal or industrial, those uses will increasingly overlap. Treated municipal water will end up being used for seals or cooling in industrial applications. Treated industrial water will irrigate crops.
  • The blurring distinctions among municipal, industrial and irrigation water highlight the fact that the future of the water industry is not just use, it’s re-use. Re-use, or re-purposed water, will be vital.
  • Increasing demand and our capacity to treat water for various uses will drive a movement to pricing water according to market – not just what the market will bear for water in general, but what users will pay for water of particular specifications. There will – and should – be different prices for potable versus non-potable water and for re-used irrigation water versus ultrapure water for making microchips.
  • Emphasis on setting an accurate price for water by quality and use will push measurement to new heights. Measurement is going to be key for both attaining quality goals and conservation – after all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Of course, one of the challenges that better measurement will present is whether just because we can find contaminants at parts per trillion or some similarly low level, do we really need to remove them? This points directly back to the concept that we will be considering water in terms of its use and specifying accordingly.
  • Supported by measurement and aiming at specific uses, water treatment and purification will increasingly become a prescriptive process. There will be more value than ever in diagnosing the water quality – understanding it at the start and aiming for a specific goal as a result of conditioning and purification – before prescribing treatment. We’ll be looking both upstream and downstream to find technologies that are most efficient, effective and compatible to get water from source quality to desired quality.
  • The link between energy and water will be increasingly recognized. Every gallon of water is linked to a barrel of oil or a BTU of another form of energy and vice versa. As both water and energy become scarcer and more expensive, those relationships will move to the forefront of how we think about water and power.
  • Environmental footprint will also become much more widely recognized, especially as the water-energy nexus is more widely acknowledged. The current interest across all industries in carbon footprint – the relationship between a process or product and the fossil fuel used to create it – is just the start. Stakeholders at every level will increasingly scrutinize the water management industry’s consumption of all inputs, including energy, chemical use, reject water and even the materials required to construct and house water treatment equipment.
  • Interest in environmental footprint and an accurate price for water will intersect as more stakeholders consider ROE – return on environment. ROE will take into account the investment of energy, reject water, chemicals, space and materials and balance it against the treated water it generates. Positive ROE represents a constructive investment of resources into producing water for specific use – or, better, re-use. In the next 50 years, every drop will be assessed in both economic and environmental terms to ensure we make the best possible use of our most precious resource.
  • The future of water in the next 50 years doesn’t lie in a well or reservoir or water treatment technology, though. It lies in the coming generations of professional water managers. Those new water specialists will be educated in a discipline of water management – integrated university curricula that tie together not just the science and engineering of water, but also the political and social issues surrounding it. A century ago, some visionary engineering schools branched into petroleum engineering. A generation ago, pioneering law schools created a discipline called environmental law. For the next generation, engineering, law and sociology curricula at far-reaching universities will push water management to new heights of technical understanding and social/political context.

An integrated approach to water management, a deeper understanding of the science and societal issues surrounding water and new generations of tools to help yield more clean water with a smaller environmental footprint will help the water management industry navigate the coming decades and continue improving how we serve man and the environment.

50 years From Now, by Peter Cartwright, Carwright Consulting Co.

Although it has not yet been proven, I am afraid that toxological studies will conclude that PCPPs do have a negative effect on human health, even in the extremely low concentrations detected in drinking water. As a result, I believe that we will see a paradigm shift with regards to residential drinking water usage: regulators will mandate that every household will have one (or more) tap devoted solely to drinking and culinary water. This tap will be equipped with POU treatment technologies designed to reduce total PCPP contamination levels.

With the thousands of chemicals which comprise the PCPP community, and variation from one location to another, no single technology will sufficiently reduce concentrations of all chemicals. Certainly, the application of technologies such as RO, UV, ozone, activated carbon, ion exchange and other adsorbents, will remove significant concentrations of certain of these chemicals; however, testing will be required to determine which combination of which technologies is most effective in a particular location. Obviously, treatment to reduce contaminants present in part-per-trillion concentrations in a municipal drinking water plant is completely impractical.

To address looming shortages of acceptable quality water in the future, I believe we will see a ‘grass roots’ application of water reuse technologies at the residential, commercial and industrial level. These will include rainwater harvesting, graywater and wastewater recycling.

Regulators will have to address the health implications of appropriate technologies to effect these reuse practices and mandate reasonable and safe technology selection, installation and operation, based on source and usage requirements.

What’s Next?, by Anat Kartaginer, Tana Water LTD

Over the next 50 years everyone will need to get involved in the global water crisis. We in the industry will need to raise public awareness of the need for POU water conditioning and promote these devices as a complementary integrated tool that follows municipal water treatment.

 Green Energy and More Water, by C.F. ‘Chubb’ Michaud, Systematix, Inc.

Two things that will be us for a long time is the need for more green energy and the need for more water. It seems natural that the two can and will work together. This presents a new and unlimited economic opportunity for the water enhancement professional.

The current infrastructure for the delivery of city water will not change in the next 50 years. It will be repaired and added to but the basic method of distribution will not change. There will always be a city-supply, although it may be limited.

One of the best new sources for water is ‘used’ water. The average American household uses about 300 gallons of city- or well-supplied water per day. Of that, only about 50 percent is required to be potable water. Our water needs for drinking, cooking, bathing and dish washing can be city-supplied and those drained waters captured (sans a garbage disposal) to make up the other half of our needs for toilet flushing, irrigation and yard utility water.

Another good source is captured rainwater. Every inch of rainfall coming down on the roof of a 2,000 square foot home equals 1,250 gallons. Even a measly 12 inches of rain per year would amount to almost 15,000 gallons, or enough to supplement 100 days of utility use. A six-by-six-by-eight foot storage container above or below ground is 2,150 gallons.

A good start would be to develop a system for water capture. Isolate those drains and reroute roof drains and store this water. A solar powered pump could easily supply this water after filtration to fulfill the utility needs. The filtration technology is already available.

A few simple electronic sensors and switches or a well tank would assure that you could still flush a toilet at midnight. Sewage waste would still be given back to the city, which would process this water and give it back for potable use.

Any water can be converted to potable, whether it is brackish, waste or seawater in origin. Closing this total reuse concept loop would guarantee we would always have enough water and a green lawn.

The quantities are unlimited, but it takes a lot of energy to process, produce and deliver. Solar, wind, wave, hydro and nuclear power are all green technologies. We will witness a boom in the development of these energy sources and the ‘used’ water reuse concept.

In 50 years, there will never be a shortage of energy or water ever again.

In the Future, by Gary Hatch, Hatch Global Consulting Services

(The following is noted in Hatch’s Technical Review Committee Insights elsewhere in this issue.)

The three most important issues in our industry within the next five years will be domestic and global economic issues, foreign competition for those businesses that have not or cannot expand their production and sales internationally, and domestic and global regulatory issues. These will include the salinity issue, REACH and other regulatory product restrictions.

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