Smart solutions for a market in transition
Municipal and industrial water treatment is poised to enter an era of significant change, with key regulatory updates on the horizon and cost pressures putting an increasingly tight squeeze on aging infrastructure and operating expenses alike. Tackling these challenges and forging a path towards a successful future demands that all stakeholders up their game, addressing inefficiencies and embracing the opportunities that new digital innovations and business models offer.
We’ll certainly see some big changes on the regulatory front in Europe in the near future. Much of the current European legislation on water treatment dates from the 1990s; since then technology has moved on in leaps and bounds, and public awareness of the environment and issues relating to climate change and water quality in general is much higher. The EU is currently undertaking a major review of the Water Framework Directive and associated legislation like the Drinking Water and Urban Wastewater directives.
Maximize the existing capacity
New regulations may mean even greater levels of monitoring and reporting to maintain transparency, as well as stricter requirements for water and effluent quality. According to the European Environment Agency’s 2018 report, European waters remain under pressure from a range of human activities. The maximum limits for BOD, COD, TSS, and phosphorus should all be tightened through regulation. Phosphorus is especially harmful because it causes eutrophication, which is the excessive growth of algae and flora in lakes or other bodies of water. Emerging pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, and microbiological contaminants, should be included in the legislation.
The majority of Europe’s water treatment infrastructure was designed and commissioned decades ago, with limited major investment since then. At the same time, municipalities are facing increasing demands on capacity with urbanization. Funds for new investments are tight. This is where digitalization and smart process management play an increasingly important role – enabling operators to squeeze more performance results from their existing infrastructure through precision and process transparency.
Changing cost and pricing dynamics
In the water treatment chemicals industry, cost and pricing dynamics haven’t traditionally been major drivers for change. However, the situation is changing in the face of rising raw material costs and the fact that many manufacturers of chemical products for water treatment are operating at maximum or close to maximum production capacity. In addition, logistics costs have risen as a result of limited carrier capacity. From a budgeting perspective, both municipalities and industrial operators need to reevaluate their plans for the upcoming years to take these cost pressures into account.
Adopt a new way of doing business
Going forward, water treatment customers should demand more from their suppliers, both in terms of product and solution offering and sustainability performance.
As an example, we are working with BIOFOS Copenhagen to optimize chemical sludge treatment based on jointly agreed performance targets. The service includes high performance chemical products, application expertise, online measurement sensors, and recommendations on optimal dosing points, as well as a customized reporting system. This type of performance-based agreement requires some out of the box thinking in the conventional tendering process for suppliers, but pays off in the bigger picture reducing the total cost of ownership.
Although the next few years may hold potential challenges for water treatment plants, fresh thinking and new ideas also mean that it can be a bright future. Partnering wisely with regulatory developments, smart process management and innovative new business models in mind, can help municipalities and water intensive industries to drive, not drift, forward in change.