Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Tertiary water reuse is a popular idea

Agricultural and industrial use account for 90 percent of the world's freshwater resources

October 29, 2012
GE Water usage poll
Source: GE Power & Water.

Concern is growing about the future availability and quality of water. A recent GE consumer survey indicates Americans strongly support reusing water to help the US drive economic competitiveness and protect the environment.

Two-thirds of Americans feel positive about water reuse, according to the survey of 3,000 consumers in the US, China and Singapore. The survey reports Americans also think industry and government should play a stronger role in making water reuse a priority.

Considering the GAO reported 36 US states face water shortages in the coming year, this is a significant finding. By 2025, it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population (5.3 billion people) will be vulnerable to water shortages, according to the United Nations.

“Population growth, rapid industrialization and accelerated urbanization are driving the need for water reuse,” says Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO—water and process technologies for GE Power & Water. “The survey, which we developed to get a better understanding of the awareness and barriers to adoption of water reuse, revealed stronger support for water recycling than we expected. It shows that the vast majority of Americans understand the value of water reuse.”

Nearly 20 percent of the world’s freshwater resources are used for industrial purposes, and nearly 70 percent for agriculture. The survey showed Americans feel the largest water users are most responsible for contributing to water scarcity. Large industries (74 percent), agriculture (69 percent) and utilities and power companies (67 percent) were seen by respondents as most responsible for contributing an “extreme amount” or “quite a bit” to water scarcity.

Americans also see the connection between energy and water—more than eight in 10 (86 percent) understand energy is needed to deliver water, and more than seven in 10 (74 percent) are aware that water is needed to create energy. Americans expect energy industry leaders to demonstrate water stewardship by using recycled water to produce electricity—and believe this can positively affect cost and efficiency. About 84 percent say smart water management can help the US more efficiently create and use energy, and nearly nine out of 10 (87 percent) Americans are in favor of using recycled water for power generation, more than any other application.

Despite having positive perceptions of water reuse and a good grasp on the country’s largest water users, Americans’ understanding of the water lifecycle and solutions lags behind that of those surveyed in China and Singapore. For example, the study showed 31 percent of Americans don’t know where their water comes from, compared to only 14 percent of those in China and 15 percent of those in Singapore.

In addition, Americans are looking toward national government to take the lead to advance water reuse. Eight in 10 (84 percent) Americans believe protection of water resources should be a national priority. However, Americans are willing to do more than just call on the national government; they will open their pocketbooks as well. Nearly half would immediately pay more—12 percent on average—to ensure future generations will be less vulnerable.

For more information on the survey, visit GE Power & Water’s website.