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Country Water Action: Innovative Technology for Wastewater Reclamation
Advanced wastewater treatment technology, like the membrane bioreactor (MBR) process, is helping countries such as the People’s Republic of China deal with increasing pressure on their freshwater resources.
Introduced in the early 1990s, MBR is now considered to be a leading technology for wastewater treatment for reuse purposes by national and local authorities in the PRC. The country’s “Catalogue of Environmental Protection Industry Equipment (Products) Encouraged by the State” listed the MBR as the first technology in its 2010 edition.
The MBR process involves a “suspended growth activated sludge system” that utilizes microporous membranes that effectively filter solids from wastewater, resulting in effluent that is safe enough to be discharged to waterways or used for irrigation. It is an emerging advanced wastewater treatment technology that has been successfully applied at an ever-increasing number of locations around the world.
The benefits of MBRs, such as small environmental footprint, excellent effluent quality, stable operations, and the potential for neighbor-friendly aesthetics, have catapulted the technology from small, satellite reuse facilities to large end-of-the-line treatment plants.
The shift to this new technology came about when the Ministry of Water Resources focused on wastewater reclamation as one of the priorities of the national environmental protection plan for the 12th five-year period (2011-2015). When the PRC government recognized that the northern and eastern parts of the country were in the midst of a serious water crisis, the national government started an initiative that prioritized the need to generate a valuable, renewable stream of water resource.
The plan improves the wastewater reclamation rate for recycling and reuse purposes, aside from increasing municipal and industrial wastewater treatment rates. This includes the target municipal wastewater reclamation rate of 10% by 2015. The standards for the quality of treated effluent also rose to another level, with emphasis on reuse and recycling applicability.
As an incentive, the PRC government encouraged the development of wastewater reclamation and reuse projects by compensating 50 percent of the building and construction cost for municipal treatment facilities, thus stimulating the development of a water reclamation industry.
Given this policy background, innovative technologies that would meet the quality standards with high reuse potential have a market opportunity in the PRC. The MBR is one such technology and has become the focus of much research and application.
The MBR market in the PRC has been growing steadily since 2007 and the trend is likely to continue, especially in areas where water stress level is high and the demand for recycled water is increasing. One example is Tianjin, which planned to increase the wastewater reclamation rate to 30% by 2010, and construct separate water supply systems for municipal water supply and reclaimed water supply for all newly built residential communities. Another example is Shenzhen, whose wastewater reclamation rate was 11% in 2009. The city plans to increase the wastewater reclamation rate to 80% by 2020, of which 20% will be used for municipal water supply.
The number and size of MBR plants in the PRC have progressively increased in the last few years due to an increased confidence in the MBR technology, a growing number of manufacturers, and reductions in costs. A big boost came from holding big events, such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the Shanghai Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, where MBRs were installed in the venues.
With revenues of $228.1 million in 2010, estimated to reach $1,351.1 million in 2017, the future of the MBR technology in the PRC looks brighter than clean, fresh water.
The number and size of MBR plants in the PRC have progressively increased in the last few years due to an increased confidence in the MBR technology, an increasing number of manufacturers, and a reduction in costs. A big boost came from holding big events, such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the Shanghai Expo and Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010, where MBRs have been installed in the venues.
The future of the MBR technology in the PRC looks brighter than clean, fresh water. The market earned revenues of $228.1 million in 2010 and could reach $1,351.1 million in 2017.