In 2017, the United States spent $10.2 billion on water management, including water acquisition, treatment, re-use and discharge, according to a new report from Bluefield Research, Boston, Mass.

The study, “Opportunities in U.S. Industrial Water: Market Size, Trends, and Forecast, 2018-2022,” analyzes water management spend across 20 water-intensive industries, including food and beverage, among others.

Overall, water use in the United States is estimated at 322 billion gallons per day, with manufacturing, mining, oil and gas and power accounting for 47% of total withdrawals. Likewise, industrial sector withdrawals have steadily declined 30% over the last three decades.
"It is evident overall water use for industrials is declining, but that's only part of the story," says Mike Kozar, senior analyst. "While withdrawals are shrinking through technology improvements and an evolving U.S. industrial footprint, the allocation of water spend from acquisition to re-use is changing within this smaller pie."

For water solutions providers, industrial demand for improved water management presents significant opportunities, particularly as companies' attention to water costs and operational risks increase. Facing a changing regulatory environment, emerging climate risks and a need for access to reliable water supplies, companies are deploying new technologies and strategies to better address their water footprints.

Water demands vary significantly across a highly fragmented industrial sector in terms of treatment needs, effluent strength, water intensity, geographic consolidation and segment growth, according to the report. Food manufacturing, which makes up 10% of the annual total, is highly fragmented across the United States, and requires more commoditized solutions, such as filters and mobile treatment systems.

"We analyzed more than 300,000 industrial facilities in more than 3,000 counties, which highlights the extreme geographic and demand-side variations," says Kozar. "Our goal was to break down which industries, segments and regions offer the most opportunities for water service providers now and going forward."

The analysis identifies wastewater re-use as a key focus of change. To make greater strides in this area and improved efficiencies, decentralized treatment systems, digital monitoring and alternative water sources are expected to grow in adoption. While federal EPA and state regulations pose longer-term drivers, the pace of regulatory change is having less of an impact than bottom-line driven solutions.

"Private, financially driven industrial firms are often considered to be prized opportunities by water solutions providers," says Kozar. "The challenge is navigating a highly fragmented landscape, both geographically and by client need. We think this report is a perfect guide to hone one's strategy."

Bluefield Research analyzed the industrial water market across 20 industries, 3,000-plus counties and four water management categories, covering an industrial landscape of over 300,000 facilities.