Macro Events Influencing Impacts on Water Delivery
The big water challenges of 2023 still come from global, long-term trends, and the technologies to address them continue to make gradual progress. So, it should come as no surprise that the list of water trends for 2023 will look much like those of recent years with some change in emphasis.
Delivery of water assets has been facilitated by hundreds of water commitments secured by the 2023 UN Water Conference and by funding of US water infrastructure under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These commitments and investments have provided a significant boost to water infrastructure development and have paved the way for improved delivery systems and enhanced access to clean water. With the support of international agreements and domestic policies, the focus on efficient water asset delivery is aligned with the broader goals of sustainability and ensuring equitable access to this vital resource.
Additionally, federal regulators have ended the impasse over how water will be shared among the U.S. states of the Colorado River Compact. With water rights more clearly determined, water along the Colorado will probably now be distributed more efficiently and less contentiously.
Global water giants will continue to develop centralized, large-scale projects. But leaner companies with access to effective decentralized water treatment technology and innovative means of financing will also flourish.
The Rise of Digital Water
Smart systems for managing water are gaining popularity in 2023 thanks to Internet of Things technology and data analytics. These systems use sensors and data analysis to improve effectiveness, optimize water usage, and reduce costs.
Water utilities are now turning to early warning systems that rely on data integration and advanced analysis to better manage risk. In 2023, such systems will continue to protect infrastructure and customer data from online and offline threats.
As it becomes more important to reuse water, more monitoring systems will be needed in order to control quality and reduce risks to public health and damage to the environment.
Automated management of the entire water cycle through integration of data will enable managers of water assets to improve operations; reduce costs; respond to extreme events; optimize water usage; and manage the processes of drinking-water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, and irrigation. Wherever adopted, water planning tools will provide real-time, accessible, reliable information to accurately assess resources.
Artificially intelligent water applications will also continue to be developed, though 2023 may be too soon for AI to profoundly transform water management.
Advances in Membrane Filtration
The efficiency and versatility of membrane filter technology enables it to be employed in such diverse applications as desalination, treatment of wastewater, and purification of drinking water. The growing focus on sustainability is fostering the acceptance of energy-efficient treatments like aerobic granular sludge technology and anaerobic digestion, which reduce consumption of energy and reduce operating costs.
Psychological barriers to the reuse of water often outlast technical barriers. When there’s a water crisis, though, the psychological barriers tend to evaporate. Because the high quality of the effluent produced by high-membrane bioreactors (MBRs) makes them a good choice for reuse of water that requires high nutrient removal, membrane technology like MBRs and reverse osmosis will continue to be adopted in 2023.
Demand for Desalination
As a means of desalination, reverse osmosis will be adopted more often as energy costs render thermal desalination obsolete. One of the biggest barriers to water reuse has been the substantially lower cost of high-quality natural sources. The cost efficiency of reverse osmosis is changing this economic calculus; for the last several years, even as the cost of water has risen, desalination has gotten much cheaper thanks to Israeli advances in the technology of reverse osmosis.
In 2023, then, the balance may often tip toward desalination. More and more people are also coming to appreciate how much cheaper it is to desalinate brackish water than to desalinate seawater. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that even far inland, US aquifers contain 800 times more brackish groundwater than the amount of fresh groundwater the nation pumps annually.
An impending project in Alice, Texas, made possible by a public-private partnership, will desalinate brackish groundwater from a local aquifer 50 miles inland. In 2023, we will continue to see new projects to desalinate brackish groundwater wherever it may be.
Evolving Water Technology Trends for a Sustainable World
In the coming years, it is expected that water technology will continue to evolve, driven by ongoing global challenges and the need for more efficient and sustainable water management practices. As technology advances and awareness grows, the barriers to water reuse are gradually diminishing, making way for greater adoption of innovative solutions. With the convergence of digital advancements, membrane filtration techniques, and desalination technologies, the water industry is poised to address the increasing demand for clean water while mitigating the challenges associated with scarcity, water quality, and rising costs. By embracing these trends and continuing to explore new possibilities, stakeholders in the water sector can contribute to a more secure and sustainable water future.