The human race has reached a tipping point. For the first time in history, more than half the population lives in urban areas — and the United Nations predicts that all population growth for the next several decades will also be urban. The global middle class is projected to increase by three billion people over the next two decades — mostly in the Asia Pacific region — and all will require safe, centralized water supplies.
Global GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has risen at an average of eight percent per year for the past five decades. “Newly industrialized countries” such as India and China are building significant new production capacity, while more developed nations continue to create novel materials, manufacturing processes, and fuel extraction techniques. (One high profile example is the hydraulic fracturing of shale — “fracking” — expected to generate nearly half of all natural gas in the United States by 2035.) These activities all tend to create waterborne pollutants whose levels must be monitored to inform water treatment decisions.
Forty-four percent of the world’s population lives in areas of high water stress. A typical example in the United States is the arid Southwest, but even the massive Ogallala Aquifer lying beneath the Central Plains — which feeds irrigation for twenty percent of all U.S. grains and corn and has prevented any recurrence of the 1930s Dust Bowl — is only expected to last another ten to sixty years. In such an environment of scarcity, water must be reclaimed and treated more frequently and there are limited backup reserves. Proactive testing must ensure that the quality of this meager supply is acceptable for immediate reuse.