In a world facing increased water scarcity, nontraditional sources should be increasing in prominence

As we end one year in the water and wastewater treatment sectors, it’s time to look ahead to what 2023 will bring, both in terms of challenges and strategies to address them.

Likely challenges include more drought and urbanization, which could both make it hard for the water sector to keep up with demand. In response, new, nontraditional water sources and systems will be developed to help water management do more with less water, through 2023 and into the future.

No matter how advanced the solutions to water challenges are, they only work for those who can afford them. In the coming year, access to initial investment capital for water assets will remain elusive for far too many projects, so newer financing models should gain ground.

Nontraditional Water Sources Will Be Tapped

Water reuse is a way to transform nontraditional water sources like stormwater and domestic wastewater into safe sources for nonpotable applications or even drinking water. Although potable reuse still faces resistance in some quarters, rising water costs and shortages could help break down resistance.

Desalination is another way of meeting the need for fresh water. A recent analysis suggests the desalination equipment market will likely grow by $16 billion by 2028, accelerating at an 8% CAGR, with growth driven by:

  • Growing adoption of renewable power.
  • Growing popularity of membrane technologies.
  • Advances in energy-recovery.

The United States Geological Survey has found that brackish aquifers in the U.S. contain 800 times more brackish water than the amount of fresh water pumped annually in the nation, so interest in desalination is likely to spread far inland in 2023. Some even envision small-scale desalination as the savior of the parched West.

In Texas, one brackish water desalination plant is slated for commissioning by Seven Seas Water Group in 2023. The plant is helping the city of Alice gain drought resilience and water independence at no upfront cost by tapping the city’s brackish aquifer, and it will simultaneously lower water prices through Water-as-a-Service®.

Interest in Decentralized Treatment Expected to Grow

Considering the high cost of water assets and the difficulty of funding their delivery and long-term requirements, interest in decentralized treatment is expected to grow in 2023.

While large, central infrastructure still has its place, decentralization is a more efficient way to deliver water and wastewater infrastructure. Siting plants directly in the areas they serve cuts pipe costs, which often account for more than 50% of CAPEX. In the long term, less pipe also means significantly less maintenance and lower pumping costs, and no return pipeline is needed to establish wastewater recycling locally.

Decentralization can be applied on a small scale, and also, with an array of strategically placed assets, it can also shoulder the same load as large centralized plants.

Innovative Financing Models Increase Water Treatment Access

Even though the U.S. Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will open a torrent of capital for water assets in 2023 and beyond, actual need far surpasses funding. Many regions in America and abroad have little access to capital for water assets, and where capital is limited, there also may be a lack of organizational resources, expertise, and stability to maintain and operate plants.

With increasingly popular financing structures like build-own-operate (BOO) and build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT), a specialized water company assumes risk and provides operations and maintenance over long contract terms with little or no upfront expense.

Flexible, performance-based contracts allow utilities and other entities to buy water affordably at guaranteed quality and prices.

Lease-plant arrangements and flexible, phased installations that scale treatment capacity to match growth are also available through Seven Seas. While up-to-date water and wastewater technology is becoming more sophisticated, and increased regulation is also trending, a long-term Water-as-a-Service® relationship with Seven Seas turns water worries over to professionals, so clients can return to their core missions in 2023. Contact Seven Seas for more information.

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