by Mike Pemberton

Many industrial plants, especially those that employ continuous processes, such as chemical, paper and refineries, are located on or near a river. Often, these facilities can pump 25 percent or more of the river flow through the plant. After being treated and used in the production processes, the water not incorporated into the product or lost through evaporation is cleaned and returned the river.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only 3 percent of the earth’s water is fresh water contained in rivers, lakes and swamps. As the demand for water increases with population growth, the pressure to minimize water use and loss in industrial plants also increases.

At the same time that better water management is required, the industrial infrastructure used to process, treat and distribute water is increasingly aged and inefficient. ‘Who is responsible for modernizing the infrastructure’ and ‘where will the funds come from’ are burning questions both today and in the future. One thing is clear: Clean water is an essential resource for modern life, business and commerce. The need will somehow, someway be largely met moving forward. It is difficult to comprehend the total scope and focus that is being placed on the availability of clean, abundant water. Most public and private water organizations have research dedicated to some facet of the sustainability/supply problem.

While the concern over fossil fuel shortages dominated the public consciousness in recent decades, water has now displaced energy as the predominant resource concern. Just as fuel shortages and dislocations have been largely addressed through innovation and ingenuity, so will be the concerns over the scarcity and available of potable drinking water. Water treatment equipment companies, engineering design firms, energy efficiency and environmental organizations, university and federal laboratories, along with numerous other entities, are humming away on solutions to this problem. While it is hard to envision when and where the corner will be turned in this struggle, our past history of dealing with the energy crisis suggests that it will be sooner rather than later.