The Future of the Distilled Water Industry: Where is it going?
Humanity has been extracting water through the process of distillation as early as the 2nd century A.D. It is the only process that conforms to the natural water cycle wherein water is evaporated by the wind and the heat of the sun, to be condensed into clouds, which will later turn back to water in the form of rain.
With such a simple mechanism, it is no wonder that the technique survived until today.
But will it continue to thrive in the coming years? Let us take a look at the present situation of the distilled water industry and some of the present water problems the planet is facing.
Majority of the operators of bottled waters utilize a combination of methods in removing impurities from the water source before pouring them into and packing them up in bottles. This is because a combination of methods ensure far more efficiency in removing water impurities, than one single method.
The methods that are widely used in water purification include: reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, ion exchange, and distillation. Out of all these, reverse osmosis is the most commonly used method in water purification; it is used by 40% of the total number of U.S. water bottlers.
Another 35% of the U.S. water bottlers make use of natural mineral or spring water – which makes it unnecessary to undergo any process of water purification – and other methods like carbon filtration and ion exchange.
The remaining 15% makes use of water distillation. It may come as a surprise that the simplest method is used by a rather small percentage of U.S. water bottlers in producing safe, drinking water. There are a number of factors that make distilled water quite unpopular among bottled drinking water producers.
The present equipment that is necessary to mass produce distilled water is very expensive. Consider that in making distilled water, one has to make use of heat to bring the water to a boil for water evaporation.
The energy needed to make a considerable amount of water boil to a hundred degrees Celsius makes bottled distilled water much more expensive than reverse osmosis bottled water.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, distilled water is very dangerous for consumption because it is very aggressive in dissolving anything it comes in contact with since it is basically mineral-free.
This “aggressiveness” makes distilled water active in absorbing a great amount of carbon dioxide from the air, making it very acidic. An increase in acidity is tantamount to an increase in aggressiveness, which is the reason behind the ability of distilled water to dissolve many metals that other types of water cannot easily do.
Moreover, it proclaims that thousands of tests and evaluations attest to the fact that distilled water will eventually result to multiple mineral deficiencies because it does not contain any minerals and it tends to dissolve the minerals that can be found within the body and bring them along with the excretion of urine.
To further prove the dangers of distilled water, it declares that the ideal state of the human body is to be in a slightly alkaline condition, filled with minerals like magnesium and calcium. Distilled water is neither, because it is said to turn acidic when exposed to air and it is devoid of minerals.
These factors play a major role behind the reason why only a small percentage of U.S. water bottlers make use of water distillation.
Despite the dangers that new research shows, the industry is booming.
The sales value of distilled water in the United Kingdom, from 2011 to 2014 is showing an upward trend. The increase in of value of £605,000 in 2011, to £1,210,000 in 2014 is a significant growth.
The stark contrast of the popularity of distilled water between the United States and the United Kingdom, is greatly influenced by the two factors mentioned above.
Firstly, the Distilled Water Company – which is UK’s leading distilled water supplier – is able to provide affordable and quality products to its customers. Moreover, they advertise and sell water distillers that can be installed for the personal use of people in their respective homes.
Secondly, while U.S. blogs preach the harmfulness of consuming distilled water, UK blogs preach about the benefits of consuming distilled water both for the body and the environment.
If the world were filled with fountains of naturally pure, abundant drinking water, then we would be at greater liberty in carefully picking only the best water.
Unfortunately, water scarcity gives us no such opportunity to meticulously pick only the best because we are already at our wit’s end just trying to find safe, drinking water sources to provide for billions.
As of 2015, a staggering number of 663 million people, which is equivalent 1 out of 10 people, still lack access to safe water. The figure though large, is still a great improvement compared to the safe drinking water situations in the past years.
Accordingly, 2.6 billion people have been able to gain access to better drinking water sources since the year 1990. However, it has been estimated that by 2025 half of the global population will be living in areas where water is scarce.
These facts clearly drive two points home: safe, drinking water is becoming more and more limited and technology is the only way to alleviate the scarcity in order provide for many.
The big question now is: Are there any new technologies that make use of distillation to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the masses?
A few years back, converting seawater to drinking water is a process that is too expensive that only developed nations can afford such a feat. However, with the emergence of new, cheaper ways on how to make seawater drinkable, even developing nations can now have access to safe, drinking water.
The forerunner of this ongoing project is a team of researchers in Egypt, at the Alexandria University. The researchers found a way to convert seawater to drinking water by making use of a water purifying technology that will make use of two processes: desalination and distillation.
Firstly, a desalination technique called pervaporation is used wherein the salt from sea water is removed. This technique makes use of synthetic membranes that will act as filters to separate both salt particles and other impurities from the water.
Then, the water that is left behind will be heated up to be evaporated, vaporized, and condensed back into pure water. This technology is even capable of removing sewage and dirt from the water, aside from seawater salt.
The thing that is most significant about this technology is its affordability and accessibility. The materials that make up this technology are reasonably cheap and are locally available. More importantly, the vaporization portion of the process does need any electricity.
This greatly reduces the cost of production, and considerably increases the accessibility to areas without a fixed power supply. These benefits are very essential in paving the way for increased distilled water consumption.
So much so that Helmy El-Zanfaly, who is a professor of water contamination at the National Research Centre in Egypt said that research in the ongoing development of this technology is much better than reverse osmosis, considering that is has great potential in opening up the sea as a good source of drinking water.
This process makes use of a water purification device called a Slingshot that can produce safe, drinking water out of any water source – even the dirtiest (seawater, sewage, industrial wastes, chemical wastes). It is a device created by Dean Kamen, who is a world-renowned inventor for his great contributions to society.
Accordingly, a single Slingshot can purify as much as 250,000 liters of water annually, which is enough to provide for the needs of an estimation of 300 people. That is equivalent to approximately 250 gallons of distilled water daily, enough to fulfill the water needs of at least 100 people.
Moreover, the water purification device is run by a Stirling engine that uses combustible fuel as a source of energy. The fuel energy may sound expensive and environmentally hostile, but the fuel source can come from various sources such as cow dung.
There are so many other technological advances that focus on tapping wider potentials for drinking water sources in an attempt to provide access to more people for safe, drinking water in the face of a growing water scarcity.
These developments will greatly increase the competition among various water industries that utilize different water filtration systems, including water distillation.
The key to boost distilled water production and consumption lies in technological developments to make distilled water accessible, affordable, and safe, while having the capability to make use of a wide water resource, such as seawater.
One of the greatest assets of distilled water is the simplicity in its production. Anyone in their homes with a heating system, such as a stovetop, and a pack of ice cubes can easily make distilled water out of the tap water that comes out of their faucet.
This is why the trend is pointing towards more homes using home water distillers.
Water distillers are efficient tools that make water distillation an easier task than setting up one’s own water distillation system. A number of growing distilled water industries offer to install home water distillation systems.
You can also make your own solar distillation system--something to augment the dwindling water supply in your community, perhaps?
These systems allow households to purify their own water, without having to spend extra money that goes to packaging in bottled water.
This is a great factor on why distilled water is still being broadly used as a water filtration method today and in the future. Though this may decrease water bottle consumption in general, it will increase distilled water consumption because of its affordability and accessibility.
It has been predicted by mathematical statistics and scientific facts that 10 years from now, millions of people will be living in areas where water is scarce. In parallel to this, humanity’s nature to fight for survival will result to an emergence of technological advances that will enable more people to have access to safe, drinking water.
This simply means that water will be very much in demand as natural water sources, such as wells, springs, groundwater, and such will apparently run dry or become unsafe for drinking.
Consequently, there will be a greater production of water to supply to people who area affected by water scarcity.
In light of this, distilled water remains to be the easiest method to completely purifying water for the following reasons:
- 1. There are many emerging technologies that greatly reduces the cost of production with energy efficient processes.
- 2. There is a growing confidence in distilled water amidst a growing state of pollution because it is the only type of water that contains nothing else but 100% water.
- 3. Along with the continuous search for environmental-friendly alternatives, distilled water is gradually growing in popularity because it is the only process that conforms to the natural water cycle of nature.
Therefore, it is a sensible thing to say that distilled water will thrive even more 10 years from now. However, this flourishing will most likely exclude distilled water bottles, and will only be limited to other means of providing distilled water to the public.
For instance, water supplies in bulk, home installation of water distillers, vendor machines of distilled water, and other non-bottled products will take over the reigning bottled water industry of today.
This is because more and more people are becoming more aware of the dangers and hazards of the continuous use of plastic bottles on the human health and the natural environment.
To sum it all up, the production of environmental-friendly methods in mass producing affordable and accessible distilled water will surely blossom a decade from now.