As long as water has been used by humans as a resource, it has been treated in some shape or form. Basic treatment methods such as boiling, straining, and using sand or gravel to filter water have been utilized to secure clean water for more than 4,000 years. Since then water treatment has been a dance of understanding what contaminants are in water, finding treatment solutions, and improving these methods to support more people.
Water treatment would remain relatively simple for the next 3,700 years until the industrial revolution began in the late 1700s. The changes seen in manufacturing, standards of living, and general quality of life were all very closely linked to our ability to utilize and treat water to meet our needs.
Much of the industrial improvements seen in this era relied on water for power, as an ingredient for food and other products, or as a resource for industrial processes. These applications provided the backbone for many manufacturing advances which would otherwise not be possible. The developments that were made during that time have majorly impacted the quality of life that we enjoy today.
Aside from large-scale industrial improvements, this new-found quality of life was made possible due to new water treatment breakthroughs. Beyond treatment for taste and removing visible impurities, water treatment didn’t appear to require anything more until 1854 when a cholera outbreak was linked to well water sewage contamination. This was a major turning point in both public health and the understanding of water treatment needs. Using chlorine to prevent water-borne diseases proved effective and has continued to be used as the main method of disinfection ever since.
But with all these new “solutions” came a brand new set of problems.
Water treatment needs began to extend beyond public health. Water resources that industries relied on began to become overwhelmed with unsustainable levels of particulates and chemicals as a result of water contamination from factories, mines, and agricultural practices. It became an issue with the potential to bring down the entire foundation of the industrial revolution that water had helped build.
The invention of new chemical water treatments appeared to be the key for equipping communities with access to clean drinking water, enabling industry growth, and fostering thriving ecosystems.
Today current estimates forecast that the water treatment chemicals market will reach a USD 46.5 billion valuation by the end of 2027. Continued innovation and discovery has provided more and more chemical solutions for water treatment professionals. Coagulants and flocculants, chemicals that help neutralize particulates from contamination and bind them into “flocs” for removal, are some of the most widely used water treatment chemicals in the industry today.
Water treatment chemicals make reusing and recycling water possible, turning the way our world uses water into a circular economy rather than a linear one. By taking a net-positive approach to water treatment, we can accelerate the world’s transition to recycled water together.
Industrial water treatment is key to maintaining both a thriving industry and increasing access to clean drinking water around the world. With the rate of growth the world has seen in every aspect of life, optimizing water treatment to reach the best water quality levels attainable must be the ultimate goal.
“Clean water is not an expenditure of federal funds; clean water is an investment in the future of our country.”
– Bud Shuster, Former United States Representative