The future of safe drinking water lies squarely in the hands of the point-of-use (POU) water purification industry. Growing awareness among decision-makers and consumers is the force behind the increasing importance of the POU industry.
Decision-makers are aware of the limited and unsustainable
contaminant removal in many products. They are aware of biofilming and the need
to eliminate wastewater. They are aware of regulatory issues. And they are paying more attention to the direct and indirect costs of POU products. Industry response to this awareness must be the production of high-quality products having the greatest dealer, customer and consumer benefits.
The POU industry faces a serious challenge. Water
contamination is the cumulative result of all types of pollution during the
last several decades. Air pollution and ground pollution can cause water
pollution. Approximately 97 percent of water on this planet is salt water. Of
the remaining 3 percent roughly 96 percent is ground water and about 4 percent
is surface water. Most of this water is now contaminated. Safe drinking water
will become the single most valuable commodity on the planet within a few short
years and “wars will be fought over water rights” (World Health
Organization). A common denominator of every person on this planet is that our
bodies are mostly made up of water (approximately 60 percent of an
adult’s body weight) and we can’t live without it. “Demand
for water purification continues to grow internationally due to economic
expansion, scarcity of usable water, concern about water quality and regulatory
requirements” (Industry Report). “Demand for drinking water world
wide will increase three to five fold” (Helmut Keiser Consultancy).
Effectively reducing pollution of the global water supply
will require new economic models with emphasis on a sustainable economy in
concert with promoting a sustainable environment. In the meantime, considering
the present state of global drinking water resources, the emergence of the POU
industry is not surprising. There also are additional concerns regarding
protection of municipal water supplies from terrorists. Clearly the social and
economic implications of contaminants in drinking water are far-reaching and
are, in fact, immeasurable. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure” has never been more appropriate.
During the First International Symposium on Safe Drinking
Water (May 1998, in Washington, D.C.) a consensus was reached by governments
throughout the world and the international scientific community. There was
general agreement that problems associated with providing safe drinking water
are overwhelming. Simply put, governments including the U.S. government cannot
properly address future safe drinking water needs. This may have been the first
significant government recognition of the POU industry. It also placed a
tremendous responsibility on the POU industry and spurred interest in new,
innovative technology.The events of Sept. 11, 2001, acted as a catalyst to
further generate awareness of present and potential problems associated with
the provision of safe drinking water. It awakened us to the fact that safe
drinking water is no longer a given; it is provisional. Avoiding present and
potential problems simply is no longer an option. It is an issue to be faced
squarely with responsibility and accountability.
The response of governments to this need for increased
supplies of pure water undoubtedly will include more regulation. Increased
regulation usually means increased costs, and there will be constant prolonged
debate between increasing the cost of providing safe drinking water by
additional regulations and consumer demand and the consumer’s willingness
to bear the price. For example, the debate over reducing the maximum
contaminant level for arsenic lasted more than 20 years before the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) finally announced a new standard. Political delays are
understandable, but delays in providing safe drinking to the population are
inexcusable. As a result, the government will need to rely on the private
sector to deal with this issue.
In the future, nature’s ability to provide sufficient
fresh water will depend largely on our ability to protect and nurture what is
essential for this to happen. The government’s role should be the
implementation and enforcement of strong regulations for the protection of the
remaining water resources, while the POU industry should take on even more of the
responsibility for providing safe drinking water for the consumer.
Substantiated real claims for sustainable and reliable
contaminant removal do not completely meet the needs of dealers and customers.
Convenience also is important. A complete drinking water system needs to
eliminate complicated technical considerations of operation and maintenance from
the dealer down to the customer level. Time, labor and costs associated with
service and maintenance needs to be reduced to an absolute minimum.
Of course, end users need assurance of fresh pure drinking
water. But dealers and customers also need assurance of hassle free service and
maintenance. The elimination of direct and indirect time, labor and costs
associated with service and maintenance will generate higher profit margins.
It is important for companies and dealers to keep up with
needs and trends. It is obvious that the responsibility and accountability of
the POU industry will become more important as we move into the future. The companies
that will emerge as leaders in the POU industry will be those that offer
high-quality products that respond to the growing awareness of the need for
pure water as well as to dealer, customer and consumer needs.