Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

China: the thirsty dragon

China: the thirsty dragon

Rob Steadman writes how the world’s most populated country expands its desalination industry.

China is putting a multi-billion dollar infrastructure in place to become one of the world’s leading exporters of desalinated water, which is a way of creating water by converting salt water into fresh water.

In a country that has an insufficient water supply, the Chinese are putting in monumental efforts to provide fresh water.  

Conflict and pressure over fresh water is set to become one of the most pressing issues in the next fifty years with the World Bank claiming, “If the wars of the twentieth century were fought over oil, the wars of this century will be fought over water”.

Seventy per cent of the Earth’s surface may be covered in water, but only 2.5% of that is fresh and only 75% of that freely available; the rest is oceanic salt water or trapped in lakes, clouds and glaciers.
The human body is 60% water; it is the lifeblood of all living things on the planet and without it, farming and industry wouldn’t exist.  Figures from the United Nations suggest water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the past century.

An estimated 1.8 billion people will live in water scarce areas by 2025; most notably the conflict ravaged Middle East. Major contributing factors in water reduction include population growth and climate change.
It is little surprise then that many global powers see clean water as a precious commodity.

China is rapidly becoming one of the world’s biggest growth markets for desalted water. The China Desalination Association is implementing the government’s five year plan to establish a national desalination industry. China, the world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion citizens, is expecting a 63% increase in demand for water by 2030, to fuel its juggernaut industrial growth.

The Chinese Government is looking to give preferential treatment to those developing desalination techniques. Rumoured tax breaks could potentially result in billions being invested by private partners and state owned companies.

China has made great efforts to lower carbon emissions over the past decade with the nation’s commitment to their electric car programme, as Blue & Green Tomorrow recently noted.
As with most industry there is a carbon imprint, so will this desalination industry have negative effects for climate change and or ethical investment?

China is looking to adopt state of the art processes, which mean membrane technology or reverse osmosis. This is essentially a filtration process removing unwanted large particles from the water. This technology uses less energy than traditional techniques but drives up costs, so China is urging for research and development into effective and sustainable desalination processes.

The extent of interest and finances put into this research and development has led non-domestic companies to look to China, with San Francisco based Energy Recovery Incorporated (ERI) moving research facilities to the Far East. ERI are researching for their own effective means of desalination technology and in allying themselves with the Chinese will make it easier for them to research and manufacture.

ERI’s mission is to “help mitigate this mounting scarcity, the process of converting seawater into fresh water emerged as a potential source of new and abundant supply”, suggesting that the sector could be a great ethical investment opportunity.

Developments in water desalination could be, along with many other industrial developments, what makes the world look to the east for in a future where water resources are running lower and lower.

If you are interested in investing in desalination companies or those looking at other methods of proving clean water then speak to your IFA, if you have one, or complete our online form and we will connect you with one.

Picture Source: Steven Depolo

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