Quenching Europe's Thirst for Drinking Water with Industrial Pumps

Posted: 4/2/2013

Living as close to the great Lake Michigan as we do here, water can literally seem to be everywhere; but in the Middle East, the American Southwest and large portions of Europe, the view isn't so plentiful. Recent studies have shown us that, globally, water is being consumed at twice the rate of population growth. In other words, meeting the demand for fresh water has become a crucial challenge in many countries. And in response, over the last few years, the desalination market has witnessed a significant upturn. It makes sense; desalination (i.e. removing dissolved minerals, including salt, from seawater) could prove to be an effective solution for addressing a number of pressing environmental issues-ranging from fresh water shortages and ecological preservation to the desertification caused by global warming.

The demand for fresh water, even desalinized "fresh" water, is only going to increase and so represents a potential market particularly for commercial and industrial pump manufacturers. The global market volume for desalination technology peaked at roughly $4 billion in 2005 and can be expected to top $30 billion by 2015. The primary market for desalination continues to be the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region is expected to experience a higher growth rate in the future because of rapid urbanization and population growth and the resulting environmental deterioration. North America will likely continue to be a market because of the need to preserve the South West's rapidly dwindling supplies of groundwater.

In Western Europe, demand for the industrial pumps employed by desalination plants is buoyed by many of the same factors as it is elsewhere ... An increased demand for drinking water driven by population growth, industrialization and urbanization accompanied by the alternatives to desalination, such as water transfer, having become more expensive over the same time frame. To which I'm inclined to add a fifth factor: The well documented zeal of Europeans for infrastructure spending. Even during the 2008-9 global economic downturn, many European governments applied precious stimulus funds to drinking water availability solutions. In spite of their well-documented economic even countries along the Mediterranean coast and the austerity strapped UK, have continued to invest in desalination plants.

Spain, Italy, and Greece are actually the largest markets for desalination pumps in Europe, offering both the best base of installed pumps in need of parts, serving and replacement and the best prospects for growth. Spain in particular has become a hub of desalination industry activity, accounting for roughly 85% of the European marketplace. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Spain built Europe's first desalination plant in 1964. Economically fraught Italy off all places for 5% of the remaining European desalination pumps market and has become a leader in the field of research related to cost reductions in the technology of desalination. Otherwise cash-strapped Greece is actually experimenting with pump-intensive renewable energy sources such as geothermal and floating wind turbines to power their desalination plants. And even though Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary are currently considered weak markets for industrial pumps developments in desalination technology may soon make more economically viable for them to follow the rest of the continents lead.

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