safety of water treatment chemicals

About 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water with the oceans holding around 96.5 percent of it. But as the famous lines of the poem go “Water water everywhere, not a drop to drink.” Yes! It is a fact in many places of the world.

  • According to UNICEF, almost two-thirds of the world’s population i.e., around 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year.
  • 50% of the world’s population could be living in water scarcity areas by 2025
  • Over 20 million people, including 10 million children, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia were facing a deadly drought and needed water and food assistance throughout 2022.
  • Basra with a population of more than 4.5 million people is one of the worst affected by the water scarcity crisis that has struck Iraq and the MENA region. The reduced river flows and other issues have led Basra to witness a sharp decline in the drinking water supply to its inhabitants.

Hence water needs to be conserved and recycled to meet the needs of the growing population.

Water Conservation

Water conservation refers to restricting water usage and stopping water wastage. Conserving water saves energy, our environment, and also our ecosystem, keeping our wetlands brimming with aquatic life. It overall helps in reducing our carbon footprint.

Water Recycling

The reclamation of water from a variety of sources then filtering and treating it with chemicals and reusing it for beneficial purposes such as agriculture and irrigation, potable water supplies, groundwater replenishment, industrial processes, and environmental restoration is water recycling.

Water reuse can provide alternatives to existing water supplies and facilitates better demand mitigation. It enhances water security, sustainability, and resilience while eliminating the need to transport water.

Steps to water treatment

Public drinking water systems use different water treatment methods and alternatives to provide safe drinking water for their communities. Some water supplies may contain radionuclides (small radioactive particles), specific chemicals (such as nitrates), or toxins (such as those made by cyanobacteria). Specialized methods to control or remove these contaminants are also be part of water treatment.

As per the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), states, tribes, and local governments implement programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act to protect the quality of drinking water, community drinking water, and water bodies like rivers and lakes. Similarly, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provides guidelines and steps for water treatment. These are as follows-

  • Coagulation,
  • Flocculation,
  • Sedimentation,
  • Filtration,
  • Disinfection.

The major requirement in most of the above-mentioned steps is the addition of chemicals.

The treatment of water with specific chemicals is mandatory to make it safe and fit for use i.e., to make it clean and free of any parasites, bacteria, or viruses. These chemicals can range from certain specific types of salts to naturally occurring elements such as-

  • For Coagulation- salts of aluminum, iron, etc. such as aluminum sulfate, sodium aluminate, ferric sulfate, and ferric chloride
  • For Flocculation- the main ingredient of most flocculants’ chemical composition is aluminum sulfate
  • For Disinfection– Chlorine, iodine and chloramine are the major disinfectants used in public water systems.
  • For adjusting the water PH- Sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide (caustic) are most commonly used for neutralizing the water’s PH. Adjusting the pH improves taste, reduces corrosion (breakdown) of pipes, and ensures chemical disinfectants continue killing germs as the water travels through pipes.
  • The addition of fluoride, since it reduces corrosion and drinking water with the right amount of fluoride keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities

Safety assurance of chemicals used in water treatment

Water treatment chemicals need to be used according to specified instructions and guidelines to ensure safety. If not handled or used correctly they may cause health issues, especially if inhaled or brought in direct contact with skin. In case of being exposed to high concentrations of these, the results may be severely damaging.

Chlorine which is significantly used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and other germs in water treatment processes have negative side effects. It can cause skin problems such as rash, itching, redness, and irritation. Similarly, aluminum sulfate and fluoride may lead to health implications if handled recklessly. The presence of toxic substances in some types of water treatment chemicals can cause cancer or other severe health problems such as eye damage, and asthma attacks in case of inhalation or ingestion. 

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in water treatment plants

Occupational health and safety is a critical concern for workers while handling or using chemicals for water treatment processes. Apart from health hazards severe mental trauma can be caused owing to exposure to the following –

  •  High levels of noise from electro-mechanical equipment.
  •  Various disinfectants which are intended for the disinfection of water and are known as toxic substances.
  • Environmental factors such as annoying noise, water splashing, odors, high humidity, etc. Causing psychological stress and mental pressure

To avoid any kind of health mishaps, the following precautions need to be taken-

  • Providing adequate training for workers regarding safe handling and use of water treatment chemicals
  • Providing workers with individual personal protection equipment(PPE) such as masks, eye-protection glasses, gloves and flame or water-resistant clothing, and safety gear like helmets, with or without lights, etc
  • Planning regular service and maintenance of equipment and machinery. As per a study, 58% of accidents in water treatment plants are a result of device or structural failure.
  • Having a functional disaster management strategy or emergency response plan to mitigate unprecedented situations.  It has been observed that a significant number of accidents at water treatment plants are caused by extreme weather conditions, such as torrential rains, floods, etc., accounting for 13% of all accidents.
  • Ensuring proper storage and labeling of water treatment chemicals in secure places to avoid accidental exposure or spills
  • Providing fire extinguishers, fall protection, and prevention systems, and deploying a functional alarm system
  • Regular health and safety inspections for early identification and mitigation of risks

The Current and Estimated Market Size

The Water Treatment Chemicals Market was valued at approximately USD 36 billion in 2022 and is estimated to reach USD 50 billion by 2035 growing at a CAGR of 5%.

Trends positively impacting the market growth are-

  • The growing population being directly proportional to the demand for water.
  • The global water scarcity crisis looming over the future.
  • The rising demand for chemically treated water by industries, agriculture, and other sectors.
  • The growing popularity of safe and non-toxic chemicals to be used in water treatment plants.
  • Stringent government regulations regarding the certification required for meeting water treatment standards.
  • The growing awareness regarding water conservation and recycling leading to the sustainability of the ecosystem.
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Trends negatively impacting the market growth are

  • The health hazards associated with handling chemicals required for water treatment.
  • Alternative water treatment technologies such as ultraviolet (UV) light, reverse osmosis, and ozone treatment used to disinfect water in treatment plants, can act as a restraint in the growth of the Water Treatment Chemicals Market.
  • The high costs of using eco-friendly chemicals are also challenging the growth of the market.

Global Water Treatment Chemicals Market Regional Analysis

Global Water Treatment Chemicals Market Regional Analysis

  • Asia Pacific is the leading region with the maximum revenue share in the market. The growing urbanization and developing infrastructure coupled with rising water scarcity are the major factors boosting the market in this region. The emerging economies of China and India are showing rapid growth in industrialization which is consequently boosting the demand for chemically treated water.
  • As per a study, the market for water treatment chemicals in China shows high revenue prospects, growing at a CAGR of 7.5% owing to high demand from the power industry especially renewable energy such as biogas. Shandong ThFine Chemical Co., Ltd. in China is a major market player. ThFine has been in the water treatment chemicals production for more than 10 years, driving innovations for better application of chemicals to circulating water systems, boiler and heating water systems for use in steel & iron, paper making, petroleum, printing and dyeing, power plant, medical industries, etc.
  • India’s water treatment chemicals market is estimated to register a robust CAGR of almost 9.5%. The major factor promoting the growth of the market in the country is the high demand from various end-use industries especially chemicals, petrochemicals, and agro-based industries. Moreover, the growing power sector with an emphasis on renewable sources is also boosting the market. The sewage treatment plants set up by the government ministries is also creating a huge demand for chemicals required for water treatment. At present, there are 1093 sewage treatment plants across India.
  • North America shows promising potential in terms of the. Water treatment chemicals market. The EPA regulates approximately 155,000 public water systems in the country, making it mandatory for utilities to conduct tests according to schedule and submit water quality data. On the other hand, over 15 million Americans rely on water from private wells which also have to go through many steps to become safe for use. They are constantly monitored and treated properly to prevent bacterial outbreaks, natural disasters, and pollution. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 32 cases of drinking-water-associated outbreaks from 2011 to 2012, a major portion of it was Legionellosis, a disease typically spread by water droplets in the air, and the remaining cases were associated with bacteria and viruses that could be killed by chlorine. For preventing such outbreaks, CDC has emphasized the use of sufficient levels of disinfectant, such as chlorine, to be present in the water from the time it leaves the treatment center to when it is distributed as water supply in homes. Apart from that in various states, chemicals are added to adjust hardness and pH levels or to prevent corrosion for treating water.
  • In Europe, the total length of the sewer network has been estimated at around three million kilometers. In total, there are more than 18,000 wastewater treatment plants across the continent. The total length of the drinking water network in Europe is 4.2 million kilometers which supplies 44.7 billion m3/year of drinking water to the whole region. Chlorine is the most widely applied disinfectant for water treatment in Europe.

The prominent players in the Water Treatment Chemicals market are-

The major companies operating in the market are Ecolab Inc., Solenis LLC, Akzo Nobel N.V., Kemira OYJ, The Dow Chemical Company, Snf Floerger, Solenis LLC, Suez S.A., Lonza Group and BASF SE.

The latest developments in the field of water treatment chemicals are

  • The transfer of BASF’s paper wet-end and water chemicals business to Solenis had been completed and is effective since February 1, 2019. BASF holds a 49% share, and 51% of the shares are held by funds managed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and the Solenis management. The combined business presently operates under the Solenis name and offers increased sales, service, and production capabilities globally. The combined company has an expanded product portfolio and cost-effective solutions for paper and water treatment customers.
  • Ecolab’s water and process management business, Nalco Water, will be designing, building, operating, owning, and maintaining a new water treatment plant at Shell Jurong Island, to contribute to Shell’s water conservation ambition.  The plant is scheduled to commence operations in July 2023.

Conclusion

Water is an inseparable part of our lives and indispensable for survival. It is a basic necessity used in cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing, etc. Water is necessary to keep us healthy and hydrated. It is also significantly used in industries, agriculture, poultry, and generating hydroelectricity. So to use it efficiently and discreetly is the call of the day. Reclamation and recycling are hence important processes for maintaining the water ecosystem.

Chemicals are used at different stages for water treatment. In addition to or instead of adding chlorine, chloramine, or chlorine dioxide, water treatment plants also disinfect water using ozone, ultraviolet light, and reverse osmosis but these disinfection methods do not continue killing germs as water travels through the pipes between the treatment plant and the tap. In the transport, water may again get contaminated. As such using chemicals for treating water is recommended. Therefore, in a nutshell, we may say the water treatment chemicals market shows huge prospects of growth and profitability for investors and market players alike.