Major Reverse Osmosis System Components for Water Treatment: The Global Market

Published - Jul 2001| Analyst - Anna Welch Crull| Code - MST049A
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Report Highlights

  • The total worldwide market for reverse osmosis systems exceeded $1.4 billion in 2000.
  • Growing at an average annual rate (AAGR) of 9.7%, the market is expected to top $2.2 billion in 2005.
  • The U.S. market is the largest, representing 57% of the total. Growing more slowly than other areas in the world, its share will drop to 55% in 2005.
  • Fastest growth is expected in the Asia/Pacific region, at an AAGR of 12%. In 2005, this market will be nearly equal to the number 2 market in Europe.
  • Worldwide in 2000, 13% of all expenditures were for pressure vessels/ housings.



This comprehensive technical/marketing report evaluates the global markets for reverse osmosis (RO) system components. These systems include pretreatment cartridges, pumps, pressure vessels/housings, the RO membranes themselves and ancillary elements such as skids, valves, and gauges. Existing and potential markets for RO on the global stage are identified. The goals are to provide meaningful information, unbiased analysis and an assessment of the roles that RO systems can play now and in the future of water treatment technology. Twenty-eight countries' water needs are evaluated in four global regions.


The need for pure water is a global problem and one of global proportions. With each passing year the quality of the planet's water measurably deteriorates. Major user categories include the municipal, industrial, military, and agriculture/environmental sectors. Water treatment has become an area of global concern as individuals, communities, industries, nations, and their national institutions strive for ways to keep this essential resource available and suitable for use. Reverse osmosis (RO) systems have, over the past 25 years, emerged as an effective solution to transform saline, brackish, and contaminated water into a useable and/or potable product. The RO technology sector still has areas of promising activity and a market for replacement and upgraded equipment.


This technical/marketing report is designed to be as comprehensive as possible. It is created to be useable by a broad audience of , technical, and regulatory practitioners on a global scale. This document is an information source on the industry, a reference manual on an advanced technology and its system components, and a resource that provides information to decision-makers who need to stay abreast of the state of the art.

This report presents analysis and forward thinking knowledge that will be of advantage to manufacturers, suppliers, and to local, state and the federal government as well as foreign governments. Engineers, utilities and corporate planners will benefit in accessing the global components and demands for RO systems.


This study is divided into specific system component chapters dealing with the reverse osmosis membranes, the pressure vessels/housings, the cartridge filters/prefilters, the pumps, and other ancillary components such as valves, gauges, skids, racks, piping, manifolds, computer controls, and piping needed to complete a functional system. Quantitative evaluations are given for the major market segments, historically and for a 5-year horizon. The global scope of the RO market is identified within 4 major geographical regions with information on some 28 countries evaluated as to economics, demographics, and water needs.

This technical/marketing report excludes distillation technology, ion exchange technology, and crystallization techniques. Costs of consulting, engineering and real estate are specifically excluded from system costs and consideration. Nanofiltration is considered as a membrane "softening" process or a divalent or trivalent ion removal technique that is but a subset of reverse osmosis (RO).

The RO market in this study is centered on purified water produced for municipal, industrial, military and agriculture/environmental markets. It does not treat wastewater issues, except as wastewater might be an integral part of a reuse and recycle system. Discharge and treatment of wastewater is the subject of a separate study.


Research for this technical/marketing report began with a re-analysis of the available technical and literature, as well as an evaluation of the personal records of the water treatment industry available to the authors. Conversations with industry experts, company representatives, federal government researchers, university scientists and field trips to civilian and military reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment facilities provide the backbone for an evaluation of the RO equipment water treatment industry. Other sources of information include product literature from the RO equipment suppliers, patent information, and Communication Co.'s monthly newsletter Water Technology News.

Sales dollars are as received by membrane manufacturers and converted to U.S. dollars. End users pay approximately 20+% more. Equipment costs such as pumps, motors, pressure vessels, and pretreatment are evaluated separately. Post treatment, civil works, real estate, engineering racks, computer automation and installation are not included. Costs are adjusted to reflect U.S. dollars. Currency conversions are normalized in so far as possible. Much of the historic information has been a part of the authors' records for the years given.


The information sources for this study include online research, patent literature, technical journals, interviews with principals in the industry, personal communications and personal involvement in the industry. The monthly newsletter Water Technology News published by Communications Co., Inc. provides regular updates on industry and technology news events influencing reverse osmosis (RO) systems. Communications Co., Inc. has sponsored a membrane and separations technical planning conference for 18 years that includes sessions of RO and water treatment.

In evaluating the global market for water treatment using RO, information was obtained from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Army, correspondence with individuals in the selected countries, and from the author's own experiences. Projections for each market are made in terms of constant dollars. Historical values are for the year given.

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