Posted: July 24, 2009

Top 10 new water technologies to save the world

(Nanowerk News) A new report* by Global Water Intelligence magazine and technology assessment experts, O2 Environmental, highlights the top ten new water technologies which could avert environmental disaster.
The technologies address some of the greatest challenges facing the water sector today. These include:
Water scarcity: the world's freshwater resources are fixed, but both population and per capita consumption of water is growing. By 2025 one in three people around the world will experience either water scarcity or water stress.
Energy consumption: In some parts of the world the process of treating and moving water represents 20% of total energy consumption.
Salt intrusion: over-exploitation of our natural water resources has resulted in a build up of salt in our water systems.
Materials recycling: wastewater contains materials that may be valuable if recycled, but are damaging to the environment if they are not.
GWI's report has reviewed 50 existing and emerging technologies, of which the top ten are:
Aquaporins: these are membranes that replicate the way nature removes salt from water, for example in the kidneys or in mangroves. Companies developing this technology include Aquaporin (, and Danfoss AquaZ (
Bio-polymers from wastewater: bio-polymers are a great natural alternative to petro-chemical-based plastics; what is more they can be made during the biological digestion of sewage sludge. AnoxKaldnes ( is the leading commercial developer of this technology.
Nano-engineered membranes: despite improvements, reverse osmosis membranes still offer disappointingly low flux rates. New developments such as nano-composite membranes and carbon nano-tubes will significantly reduce the energy required in desalination. Two firms from the University of California, NanoH2O and Porifera, are at the cutting edge of this technology.
Biogas recovery: the collection of methane from anaerobic wastewater treatment has been a reality for industrial effluents with a high biological load for some years. The challenge is to make it viable for less concentrated municipal wastewater. Leaders in this market are Paques ( and Biothane (
Microbial fuel cells: the next step in energy recovery from wastewater is direct electrical power generation through microbial fuel cells. Emefcy ( of Israel is at the forefront of commercialising this technology.
Vapour transfer irrigation: this involves low cost plastic tubes that allow water vapour through, but not water or solutes. These make it possible to grow trees and food crops using salt-water. DTi of the UK ( has been developing this technology.
Phosphorus recovery: phosphorus is essential to the healthy growth of plants and animals, but it is a dwindling resource. The world's supply of phosphorus rock will be exhausted within the next 100 years, unless more is recycled from sewage. A number of companies including Unitika of Japan, DHV of the Netherlands and Ostara ( of Canada have been working on this technology.
Ultrasonic sludge pre-treatment: if you can break down cellular matter in sewage sludge it is easier to reclaim biogas, water and other materials. Ultrasound is a low-energy means of doing this. Hamburg Harburg University of Technology is leading research in this area.
Forward osmosis: the action of water moving through a semi-permeable membrane from a dilute solution to a concentrated solution has two interesting applications. One gives a low-energy desalination process. The other is the generation of osmotic power. Oasys, a company that has grown out of Yale University is at the forefront of using forward osmosis in desalination.
Decentralised wastewater treatment: centralised wastewater systems are expensive to build and use a lot of water. Decentralised systems might remove the need for sewers, and make it easier to recycle the water and energy in the waste. The Lettinga Associates Foundation ( is one of the leading organisations promoting the practical application of decentralised wastewater.
*Water Technology Markets: Key Opportunities and Emerging Trends is a survey of new water technologies published by the prestigious Global Water Intelligence magazine. Besides carrying an analysis of the potential of innovations in the water sector it also offers a wealth of data concerning the size and future development of the water technology market, including PowerPoint presentations and company profiles of over 3,000 suppliers of technology related products and services. It is essential intelligence for water equipment suppliers, engineers and contractors, investors and water utilities.
The report is available with accompanying data CD-ROM, priced ?1200 (US$1920) from Media Analytics Ltd, publishers of Global Water Intelligence magazine. Contact Emma Welsh, Sales & Marketing Director, for further information or to place an order: Tel: +44 1865 204208 Fax: +44 1865 204209, 27 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1HU, UK
Source: Media Analytics (press release)
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