Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No. 94: Water business in Japan and the world (13) (October 11, 2011)

Utilizing groundwater for drinking water
In the water business, various new services are emerging to satisfy the needs of the age. An example of these new services is a system to utilize groundwater to supply drinking water. This system not only reduces water charge but also realizes stable water service even in times of drought and earthquake. Wellthy, a medium-sized water treatment company in Tokyo, developed the “groundwater membrane filtration” system in 1997. Wellthy is coined from welfare and healthy, and it contained the word of well. The company has already shipped this system to more than 800 institutions, and it enjoys a share of 60% currently. This is a two-way water supply system made up of purified groundwater and tap water in the ratio 80% to 20%. The well used by this system is 100 m deep to avoid influence of soil contamination. The automatic monitoring system observes the water quality and the operational status around the clock. The supply of groundwater immediately stops should some irregularity arise, and only tap water will be supplied.  

In the purification process, the system uses membrane filtration besides sand filtration to eliminate impurities like pathogenic organisms. Because wells have a vertical structure, they are earthquake-proof and available for water supply even in times of disaster when such lifelines as water and electricity are unworkable. Taking advantage of this strength, the company proclaims the catch-phrase “Safe water within the travel distance by a bicycle.” Their customers are mostly institutions required to contribute to the local residents. Actually, hospitals and nursing-care facilities account for about 40% of their customers. In addition, the system is being used in schools and station-related facilities.

Other two-way supply systems that use rivers and other types of water resources are being developed with a view to exporting them to China and Africa where water shortage and deterioration of water quality are growing serious. Toho in Yamagata Prefecture and Yanmar in Hyogo Prefecture are the pioneers in this business fields. The above three companies are creating new markets making the best use of the integrated state-of-the-art technology available in Japan. (To be continued) 

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