The market for potable or drinking quality water is large, growing and global. As the world population expands, people are using more fresh water, but natural systems are not producing any more of it. In addition, the demand for water has been increasing at a rate that is double the rate of population growth. Higher per capita income levels lead to higher water usage by individuals. But the biggest impact is from agricultural use as the agricultural sector accounts for 71 percent of global water usage. As societies become richer, the proportion of meat in the diet increases. This, in turn, leads to an increase in water usage since the amount of water required to produce a pound of meat is ten times the amount required to produce a pound of rice.
The growing demand for water is increased further by several factors:
- Higher-than-average rates of population growth and economic growth in areas with limited natural water resources;
- Greater demand by agriculture to produce not only more meat but also crops for energy (e.g., corn to produce ethanol); and
- Extreme weather events such as droughts that create water shortages in specific regions.
But, in stark contrast to oil and other natural resources, the problem of water scarcity is not caused by a declining supply of water. Water is a fully renewable resource, renewed constantly through the water cycle. And, in fact, we use only a small percentage of the water available on the planet. Water scarcity is really a result of the mismatch between the demand for water and the supply of water, either in location, in time or in the quality of the water required. One forecast estimates that by 2025 water scarcity will affect 14% of the world’s population, or 1 billion people.
There are many ways to address this mismatch of potable water supply and demand, including transporting water using canals or pipelines, building more water storage capacity such as dams and reservoirs and increasing the efficiency of water usage. The other way is to produce drinking water from lower quality but available water sources, such as desalinating seawater or cleaning up brackish water. This is the area which is the focus of Trevi’s efforts. It is also a very strong growth area since it is drought-proof and frequently easier to implement than other options.
The Trevi FO process can be used in a variety of applications, from new desalination plants, improving existing desalination plants, brackish water treatment, water and waste water treatment facilities, brine concentration, and mining and fracking. Our near-term strategic focus is on desalination applications since the demand for them is worldwide, large and growing, and our product development efforts have yielded a working seawater desalination system.