Water is essential to life on Earth. It is thanks to water that 7 billion people are currently able to live on this planet and call it home. But as our population is increasing, access to clean water for everyone is posing ever greater challenges. This is the area where the Aliaxis’ Water Treatment segment aims to make a tangible difference, as explained by Thiroshan Moodley, Global Segment Director for Water Treatment.
Why is access to clean water an increasing global problem?
Thiroshan Moodley: “Ever since its origin, the volume of fresh water on our planet has remained nearly constant. Meanwhile the global human population has grown from 0 to 7 billion and is still rising. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on this planet, all sharing the same volume of clean water. What’s more, the available clean water is subject to contamination and pollution, due to industrialisation and irresponsible domestic water consumption. As a result, our global water footprint is becoming an even bigger problem than our carbon footprint.”
“You have to keep in mind that we are not only using this water to drink. We use huge amounts of water to produce the food we are consuming every day. For example, to produce one cup of coffee from field to cup, the industry needs 132 litres of water.”
“No fewer than 1,259 litres of water are being used to produce all ingredients for one single pizza, and for 1 kilo of chocolate the industry uses 17,196 litres of water. In developed countries like the UK, Belgium or Canada, the water footprint is more than 300 litres per person per day. In some third world countries, it’s below 10 litres per person per day, so regional differences are enormous. According to the World Health Organisation, the global average is 200 litres per person per day: a huge amount.”
What are the possible solutions for reducing our water footprint?
Thiroshan Moodley: “We will need to implement the “reduce, recycle and reuse” mentality and to do so not only in our homes. For the first time, companies, industries and governments are realising that they need to make large-scale reductions in their water consumption. Many industries, such as food and beverage, refineries, the power industry are working very hard to reduce their water footprint. Governments are putting new laws in place, like ‘zero liquid discharge’ for certain “heavy” industries. This means that they must reuse all water used within their production processes and are forbidden to discharge any wastewater into nearby rivers or streams.”
“As a result, a huge market in water treatment is opening up on a global scale. Did you know that water in any state can be converted to potable water? Not only domestic wastewater but also the most acidic and toxic industrial wastewaters such as effluent from the mining industry, for example. Thanks to advanced technology, it is possible for sea water to be turned into drinking water, although, in my opinion, this should be a last resort. Technically speaking, almost everything is possible; the only limitation is how much governments and companies are willing to invest.”
How is Aliaxis offering added value in water treatment?
Thiroshan Moodley: “Throughout our regional businesses we have a wide range of products and solutions for water treatment companies. Our dedicated Aliaxis Water Treatment team has examined the global industrial trends and found matches for them in our product portfolio. As a result, we now offer an integrated range of solutions to water treatment companies that are developing installations for cities and large industries. The total package consists not only of pipes, valves and fittings but also filtration and instrumentation equipment.”
“We have a great deal of in-house expertise and product knowledge, which we are happy to share with all stakeholders, decision-makers and end users. Our people talk to water treatment contractors and to government officials and engineering consultants. Our expertise enables us to be part of the decision-making process.”
“We also make sure that all our products used in larger water treatment installations, meet the regional standards for all relevant applications.”
Is there enough infrastructure in place right now to be able to supply the world’s population with clean water?
Thiroshan Moodley: “To get clean water flowing to all four corners of the Earth, we definitely need reliable infrastructure. In many older cities, like Paris or London, the piping network consists of materials like concrete, metal and steel. All three can be subject to corrosion, meaning that, in the immediate future a great many pipes in big cities might need to be repaired or replaced.”
“That is where Aliaxis comes in. We are developing sustainable solutions with pipes made of PVC or PE. The latter is a recyclable and reusable material that is also durable, long-lasting and resistant to corrosion. The other major advantage of our pipes, valves and fittings is that they can be installed very quickly and easily. No city government wants to dig up its streets and leave them open for months while antiquated piping systems are being renovated, so the difference we make is that we are able to provide solutions for replacing old water pipes as fast as possible.”
Is it true that a lot of water gets wasted through leakages?
Thiroshan Moodley: “Unfortunately yes, and this is an important issue worldwide. We estimate that up to 30% of all piped water gets lost through leakages along the way. The major trend nowadays is to create ‘smart cities’ with new equipment installed that can measure how much water is being produced, how much really flows out of the tap in the homes of end users and how much water gets lost before it reaches the consumer. With that knowledge, governments are better prepared to find ways to reduce leakages. That is why we are also developing products for leak detection and repair. Thanks to our solutions, leakages in existing pipes can be fixed in a couple of hours. Again, we can avoid having consumers’ water supply cut off for a long period.”
What are the most important markets for water treatment at the moment?
Thiroshan Moodley: “The fastest growing regions are definitely India, South-East Asia and the Middle-East. In India, for example, the government has introduced a policy of ‘zero liquid discharge’. That is a massive step in the right direction towards reducing India’s global water footprint. Indonesia has ambitious plans to connect 100% of its population to drinking water supplies and wastewater treatment, and aims to have 0% slums by the year 2030. Those are the places where Aliaxis can make a big difference and those are the regions where we are expanding our sales forces. In February 2018, we officially launched the India, South- East Asia, Middle East and Latin America Industrial teams, composed of talented people from Aliaxis companies worldwide. During this time, we provided our team with all of the necessary technical and commercial skills to advance our business in the relevant regions”
“We also attach great importance to the social aspect of supplying clean water. We really want to make water flow to every person around the world. In Indonesia, for example, people sometimes need to walk more than 2 kilometres to fetch a bucketful of clean water. But in Western countries we take it for granted that water comes out of our tap every day, so much so that we even flush our toilets with drinking water! We need to be more aware that fresh water is key to life. It gives us great satisfaction that, thanks to Aliaxis’ products and solutions, we can bring clean piped water on tap in every small village, even in the most remote corners of the world.”