The industrial water supply business started in 1937 in Japan. After World War II, a law system to govern industrial water supply was established for the stable supply of inexpensive industrial water to sustain high economic growth. Currently, there are 260 facilities run by 151 public companies in Japan. About 90% of the 260 facilities recorded net profit thanks to a decrease of interest burden. However, the fact remains that they have lots of unsold industrial water, making their financial conditions uneasy.
The biggest problem with the industrial water supply business is the gap of supply and demand. Currently, only about 60% of the supply capacity of the total facilities is being used, and the glut is prevailing nationwide. As a matter of fact, it is rather hard to forecast precisely demand of industrial water because required amount of industrial water varies with location and category of industry. Demand for industrial water falters constantly because of the change of industrial structure and company’s efforts to rationalize water consumption. Closing or relocation of a big plant decreases water demand drastically. There are no easy solutions for the current gap of supply and demand.
It is an urgent task to establish a system that eliminates the gap and utilize surplus water effectively and efficiently. It may be one of the possible solutions to use the surplus industrial water as general purpose water, though it is not fit for drinking. The existing law has some constraints on the diversion of industrial water to general purpose water, but the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is reportedly considering mitigating the application so that the surplus industrial water can be used for general purpose water. (To be continued)