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From Tech to Airlines: Industrial Companies Invest in Water Reuse 

In the wake of extreme drought and exposure to water stress, industrial companies are taking control of their water management with behind-the-fence solutions, resulting in increased investment in water reuse (also known as water recycling or reclaimed wastewater).

Industrial facilities are some of the highest volume water users, representing approximately 87 percent of the U.S. freshwater withdrawals. As a result, water intensive companies offer key partnership opportunities for municipalities seeking reclaimed water off-takers. This demand, put in context with drought, climate volatility, and operational risk, is moving companies to seek out alternative water supplies and efficiencies, including municipal wastewater sources.

Industrial users are leveraging reuse as a means of reducing water supply costs, securing water that is exempt from drought-related cutbacks and highlighting the firm’s environmental bona fides. Bluefield forecasts industrial applications for reclaimed municipal wastewater to grow 72 percent by 2027. Electric power plants, oil refineries, and upstream oil and gas players have been the biggest opportunities for reclaimed wastewater to date. However, new industries including technology companies and airlines are realizing water is worth the investment.

Tech companies have been increasingly investing in onsite or decentralized reuse systems with growth in commercial facilities. Intel recently announced the ensuing completion of a $25 million recycling facility in Oregon, which was preceded by its plan to return 100 percent of its recycled water back to communities by 2025. At the same time, Salesforce is installing the largest onsite reuse system in a commercial building in the U.S. Data centers, in particular, are very water-intensive — offering an emerging opportunity for reclaimed water.

Airport authorities, municipalities, airlines, and rental car companies are also investing in water reuse. Airport reuse initiatives are highly concentrated in states and regions that experience water stress. California, Arizona, Hawaii and Florida have seen the lion’s share of activity. Bluefield has identified 22 existing and planned airport projects with reuse systems deployed from 2002 through 2023 (for a total project value of USD $1.78 billion).

Geographical hot spots, such as California, Florida, and Texas, as well as industrial verticals including power, data centers, and food and beverage, will continue to be epicenters for demand for growth in water reuse systems. Companies winning projects in this space are adopting a range of strategies, from developing and promoting new technologies to partnering with municipalities and industrial off-takers.

About the Author: Erin Bonney Casey is research director for Bluefield Research and an expert in water reuse. She can be reached at ecasey@bluefieldresearch.com. Bluefield Research provides data, analysis and insights on global water markets, with water reuse being a key research theme. Learn more at www.bluefieldresearch.com.