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China's water crisis opens giant market for business

China's urgent need to address water shortage and pollution issues means that business opportunities are plentiful. Aquatech China, to be held in Shanghai on June 10-12, aims to be a showcase of the best technological solutions.

As one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, China is facing a looming water crisis; its factories, farms and more than one billion people need more clean water than its water sources can safely provide. About 60 per cent of the country’s groundwater is polluted, the Chinese government has said, and for the economy to expand at the current rate of 7 per cent a year, there is an urgent need to address this problem.  

To shed light on the issue of water usage and treatment in China, CDP, the organisation formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, will be launching the first ever report focused primarily on the corporate use of water in the country this June.

Entitled “The Business Case for Corporate Water Reporting in China”, CDP’s analysis is based on the water management data of 29 companies that have headquarters in mainland China and another 70 companies with facilities located in China.

The report launch, to be held at the Aquatech China 2015 event in Shanghai, will feature a discussion by water sustainability experts from beverage giant Coca-Cola, water management firm Suez and Norway’s sovereign wealth fund Norges Bank on the report’s findings and the case for action by corporations, investors and policy makers.

CDP, an international not-for-profit group based in London, provides a global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose, manage and share environmental information. Under its water programme, the non-profit works with the market - which includes 617 institutional investors with assets of US$63 trillion - to get companies to disclose their impact on water and take action to reduce them.

With this new China report, whose findings will be shared by its co-chief operating officer Sue Howells, CDP hopes to start the conversations around water stewardship by companies.

It wants to involve large water users such as industrial firms, water solution providers, environmental experts, governmental bodies, policy makers, corporations, investors and NGOs to join the discussion, Aquatech’s organisers say.

These sort of conversations – that lead to real, practical solutions – is what Aquatech’s organisers are hoping to see more of.

The show is already the largest water technology show in China and aims to be a platform where industry leaders from around the world gather under one roof to share know-how and expertise on the latest technologies and best practices.

Some of the solutions to be showcased include water treatment, resource transport and storage, point of use, process control technology and process automation, research and consultancy.

Two other events - FlowEx China and Ecotech China - will be held alongside, making the show Asia’s leading business platform for solid waste, air pollution and the entire water and waste water sector, say the organisers.

China’s citizens, and its continued economic expansion, will require cost effective solutions to water-related challenges, and we want to be part of that landscape.

Bryan Brister, chief executive officer, Voltea

Annelies Schenk, event manager, Aquatech China, said they expect to see a record 45,000 visitors at this year’s show.

More than 80 per cent of the overseas exhibitors have signed in with a bigger booth in 2015 compared to previous editions, indicating that their participation was successful last year, she added. 

The biggest companies in the water and industrial sectors such as GE, Siemens, Philips, Hyflux, Grundfos, DOW, Lanxess, Ashland, AO Smith and many more have been part of the show for several years running and will again be involved this year.

Opportunities in China

While water shortage and pollution is a huge problem that urgently needs solutions, it also means that opportunities for businesses are plentiful. 

“It’s not all bad news as companies also report an increasing number of opportunities relating to water,” Schenk said. Increased water efficiency and increased brand value were among the most often opportunities reported, she added. The fact that governments are also introducing regulations to support the growth of green industries will also provide a boost to the water sector. 

Foreign companies that are able to provide advanced technologies and know-how will therefore be able to make some headway in the Chinese water sector, she said. 

In particular, water management and wastewater treatment technologies are in demand as the country is struggling to clean up its heavily polluted water sources.

Many countries such as from Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada, South Korea and Japan are sending representatives to Aquatech, which will feature country pavilions showcasing solutions from these countries. 

Dutch water treatment specialist Voltea is among the companies that will be exhibiting in Aquatech for the first time. Chief executive officer Bryan Brister told Eco-Business that the company is focusing its expansion efforts on China and the rest of Asia.

The technology that Voltea will showcase is “capacitive deionization”, a desalination method that removes dissolved salts from brackish water, which has huge potential in Asian markets. Deionization is among the cheapest ways to remove salts and ionic contaminants from water, thanks to the low operating pressures and minimal energy usage, Brister said.

He said that while China and the rest of Asia are important, they can also be “difficult markets to enter”. Besides being part of the Holland Pavilion, Voltea will also make use of the event to network with different organizations and government representatives, go on planned field trips and attend one-on-one “matchmaking” meetings

“China’s citizens, and its continued economic expansion, will require cost effective solutions to water-related challenges, and we want to be part of that landscape,” he said.  

Thousands of companies will be sharing their water stories at Aquatech China 2015. Click here to find out more. 

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