Big Gains Expected for Emerging Water Tech by 2020

Take the salt or waste out of undrinkable water, and what do you get? The product of a market poised to swell to 54 trillion liters per year by 2020 — triple the global desalinated water supply in 2008. According to a new report from Lux Research, the supply will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5 percent over the next decade, with much of it being produced using a raft of new technologies.

According to Lux analysts, the next decade of desalination will be about challenging the industry’s current king: reverse osmosis. Rising demand and advances in emerging technologies, they say, will shift the competitive landscape — dominated until now by so-called RO and increasingly peppered with startups (case in point: well-funded Oasys). The technology accounted for 54 percent of the revenue share for desalination equipment last year.

This doesn’t mean reverse osmosis is about to disappear. While Lux expects reverse osmosis to share the seawater desalination market with a cadre of forward osmosis variants and face new rivals in the brackish water segment, when it comes to wastewater, the research firm doesn’t expect challengers to make much headway.

“The bottom line is that there are growth opportunities in brackish water and recycling,” Lux senior analyst Michael LoCascio said an a release about the new report today. “But RO is so entrenched that its variations will dominate for 20 years, with new technologies coming to market only through RO hybridization.”

If we’re really approaching “peak water” — using up its ecological value, as Pacific Institute cofounder Peter Gleick suggested earlier this year — there will be plenty of takers for the fresh H2O.