The total French market for water treatment equipment and related services is estimated to be worth USD 23 billion. A stable economy and financial institutions, stronger European Union (E.U.) regulations, greater public awareness and the increasing costs associated with polluting have played a major role in an expanding market for water treatment equipment and services. In addition, greater interest in complying with environmental regulations by national and local government officials has stimulated this market. Despite the current financial and economic challenges, the water sector is still expected to grow at a stable rate and provide continued market opportunities in a number of areas.
Best prospects include wastewater sludge treatment; installation and maintenance of stand-alone sewage treatment tanks; remote monitoring technology; and membranes and water filters. Non point source pollution management and water conservation including leak detection and reclamation are becoming of major importance.
Storm water Management
Urban development, environmental concerns and water quality have brought non point source water and rainwater management to the fore in France. Consequently, progressive storm water management policies have been implemented to mitigate the environmental impact of urban development. While the main focus has been placed on treating and disposing of rainwater for environmental reasons, residential applications have been used for many years. In addition, industry has recently discovered the benefits of this vital resource for its own processes that can decrease operating costs and strengthen bottom lines. This is driving the market for rainwater capture, storage and reutilization technologies and includes green house watering, commercial and industrial water cooling, water jet cutting, car washing and other ultra-pure, low mineral content water applications. Further, there are currently 8000 storm water management installations in France while there are approximately 100,000 systems in the Germany. Based on this relative comparison, France is expected to experience high growth in the short to mid-term.
Wastewater Sludge Treatment
Wastewater sludge treatment has remained a hot topic in France. Currently, 30 percent of sludge is incinerated, 31 percent goes to landfills, and 39 percent is used as fertilizer. Innovative technologies will focus on volume reduction and conditioning. The French government continues to recommend recycling and fertilizing as the primary disposal method for wastewater sludge. However, this practice has met resistance from the general public due to health and safety concerns and from the agriculture industry for pollution liability concerns. The government has consequently, strengthened its resolve to improve recycling techniques (e.g., composting, dehydration) and broaden the range of applications (e.g., farming, landscaping, revegetation) for recycled sludge. The government and as a result industry are moving towards “zero sludge discharge and zero waste generation”. Moreover, given the increase in wastewater, effluents and sludge generation, membrane bioreactors are in very high demand. New types of contaminants from pharmaceuticals, hormones and pesticides entering the wastewater stream have also increased demand for membrane bioreactors. In sum, sludge treatment technologies will continue to be in big demand into the foreseeable future.
Stand-alone Sewage Treatment Systems
Currently there are 5.3 million non-municipal sewage treatment systems (4 million septic and stand-alone sewage treatment tanks) in France. According the French authorities over 90 percent of these systems do not conform to the French Water Agencies Directives (over half of the stand alone units do not comply with current or future environmental regulations). They will, therefore, need to be replaced or revamped. Approximately 200,000 septic tank units are installed per year. Managing and maintaining these installations has become a top priority for end-users. While the number of suppliers is growing and competition is increasing market demand still outpaces supply. All this combined is expected to provide continued market opportunities in this sector.
Remote Monitoring Technology
With the arrival of broadband networks, remote monitoring technology has become extremely prevalent. The industry is continuously restructuring to leverage these new and evolving technological capabilities. Consequently, water and wastewater operators are in constant search of equipment and instrumentation that can increase operation efficiency and decrease total cost of ownership. Market players will be looking for technology with broader applications, easy installation and greater flexibility and autonomy. Further, remote monitoring technology will offer solutions to the increasing costs to comply with evolving storm water management policies.
This is especially true since many water districts and municipalities do not have the financial or human resources to invest in full storm water management systems. Hence, sharing remote storm water management systems with several water districts and municipalities has become a cost effective way to comply with more stringent regulations and ensure higher quality water management.
The European Directive for water quality adopted in 2000, which requires all natural existing bodies of water to attain satisfactorily ecological state by 2015, is expected to drive the market for biological and toxic substances analytical instrumentation. This Directive will also require a greater number of parameters to be measured. The primary market applications include continuous monitoring in aquatic environment and in-line monitoring; flood control and prevention in sewer networks and grids; reduction of chemical reagents and energy in water treatment.
Filters, Membranes and Water Reclamation
Organic membranes for urban wastewater treatment and reclaimed water is an emerging market. A growing interest and acceptance in reclaimed water has been driving the market for disinfection technologies such as UV, ozone and chlorination as well as other membrane technologies including nanofiltration, microfiltration, ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis. Membranes capable of treating wastewater discharged into sensitive ecological systems are also in high demand. This offers an important opportunity for U.S. companies, which are generally market leaders in this sector. In the UV market France (with less than 100 water treatment plants using UV systems) is much further behind compared to Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the US.