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The need to address water demands worldwide has pushed science and technology to develop innovations that can help. We have to remember that even when two thirds of the planet are made of water, it is not suitable for human consumption.
The fact still remains that every living being needs water to survive. A citizen’s average water consumption worldwide amounts to 74 gallons per day, says Arturo López Fernández, account manager for Dow Mexico Water & Process Solutions.
“The daily water consumption in Mexico is, on average, of 92 gallons per person. In tourist zones, this number increases to 159 daily gallons. Globally, Mexico is the fourth country with the highest rate of water consumption per person.”
For the hotel sector, water is a highly valuable resource. In comparison to other sectors in the country, its demand for water is higher and even more important than it might appear.
“For instance, a 1,000-room hotel uses, per day, 264,000 gallons of water,” López Fernández points out.
This number, he says, emerges from the users’ habits. “A person that is on vacation can use double the water they use when at home. In fact, the tourism sector uses 1 percent of the total amount of water worldwide.”
Such numbers have made chemical and biological industries look for better options to keep water flowing. “It is evident that our efforts are focused on the hotel sector and on everything it represents, offering, mainly, products that contribute to water treatment and purifying processes, so that we can bring more drinking water to users and workers alike.”
In this sense, López Fernández highlights that when it comes to hotels, different elements have to be taken into account. The development of a new hotel creates a relation not only with clients, but also with the population near the facilities. “In new and developing tourist zones there is a lot of investment. This situation brings out different issues, like the need for accessible roads for the people living nearby. And of course, this implies the availability of water as well.”
Dow Water & Process Solutions develops and offers different technologies to bring drinking water to this important sector, through reverse osmosis or ultrafiltration. “These technologies are complementary to water treatment plants and other machinery dealing with seawater, wastewater and well water. In the Mexican tourists sector, we are pushing into the market ultrafiltration technologies, which can be used to take out viruses, bacteria, colloids, colors, turbidity and any solid pollutants larger than 0.03 microns. This technology can be used in different processes; for example, in a desalination plant, it can be used as a pre-treatment solution, as well as in potable water production, and in wastewater, as a secondary treatment. So to speak, water that apparently is no longer useful because it comes from the sewage system can be transformed into drinking water again, thanks to the membranes our technologies feature.”
López Fernández explains that reverse osmosis is not a new process; its origins go back to the second half of the 18th century; however, this is one of the options in which they have participated actively. “This technology is used mainly in desalination processes, and we have taken the time to develop it; we have developed new membranes that allow for better salt rejection, with less pressure and energy demand.”
With regards to wastewater recovery, according to López Fernández: “Ultrafiltration can provide up to 90 percent of water recovery. Meanwhile, with reverse osmosis, as it is a desalination process, the plant’s efficiency varies, depending on inlet water quality and on the quality and quantity needed at the end of the process. What Dow manufactures is the heart of treatment plants, for we provide the element that separates salt or solids from water.”
In the hotel sector, he feels happy that investors are looking positively at both processes. However, there is still a long way to go with the government: “Nowadays, we are focusing on the development of new district projects in tourist regions. We are concerned about utilities. They have to be improved to bring new technologies to their treatment plants.”
He mentions hotels have put into practice some technologies to treat the water their guests have already used, so that it can be used again for other purposes, like gardening, showers and bathrooms. “In this sense, we believe the government must potentialize investment in tourist regions, so that the people get the water quality they deserve. Unfortunately, regulation does not allow wastewater to be treated for human consumption; it can only be used for secondary activities.”
Lack of information
Dow’s representative considers that scarce broadcasting of information and little implementation of such technologies, not only in the private sector, but also in utilities and in the residential sector, as well as the benefits they might offer in water distribution, are an obstacle that has to be sorted out: “Today, if you have wastewater and someone tells you it has been treated by means of some technology to use it again, it is very unlikely you will use it, because you don’t know the standards of the technologies and how water was treated. Therefore, we have to bring all this information to the people. The goal is to change how people think. Nowadays, we have trustworthy technology with which we can treat water to use it again. If we manage to bring such ideas and knowledge to most of the people, we can get more investment in technologies to improve water quality in the whole country.”
López Fernández says there are more than 30 water treatment plants in Mexico City which already use reverse osmosis technologies to treat water from the inner wells of the city. In many of them, Dow’s technology is at work.
He adds that, as a company, Dow is committed to society. “(That is why) we have come closer to other companies and district governments responsible for water distribution to understand their needs, share our knowledge with them and show them the solutions Dow has developed in this field.”
López Fernández assures one of the greatest satisfactions he’s had while working at Dow Water & Process Solutions, “has been to show these technologies to my country, because they improve the quality of many people’s lives.”
This article was originally published in our sister publication, Especificar, TMB Publications’ leading B2B Mexican magazine for plumbing, HVACR, hydronic and fire protection contractors. Especificar was launched in January 2017. Read more articles like this at especificarmag.com.mx.