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

Published - Sep 2005| Analyst - Susan Hanft| Code - MST049B
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Report Highlights

  • The 2005 global market for RO membranes and system components is estimated at $1.9 billion and is expected to rise at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 10.3% to more than $3 billion in 2010.
  • Through 2010, current and future users are projected to add more than 2.5 billion gallons per day of RO capacity.
  • The U.S. leads the world in expenditures for RO equipment with $848 million in 2005, and will continue to be the largest purchaser.
  • With an estimated market size of $433 million, the Asia-Pacific region currently ranks second and is rising the fastest, at an AAGR of 12.1%.


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 as the need for water treatment expands. Indeed, the need for pure water is a problem of global proportions. With each passing year the quality of the planet’s water measurably deteriorates, presenting challenges for the major users: the municipal, industrial, military and agriculture/environmental sectors. Water treatment has become an area of worldwide concern as individuals, communities, industries, nations and their national in-stitutions strive for ways to keep this essential resource available and suitable for use.

This comprehensive BCC opportunity report evaluates the global markets for reverse osmosis system components. These components 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 study provides 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 report contains:

  • An overview of reverse osmosis (RO) systems and the water treatment industry itself
  • Analysis of the markets for RO components including pretreatment cartridges, pumps, pressure vessels/housings, the RO membranes themselves and ancillary elements such as skids, valves and gauges
  • Evaluation of the needs of 28 countries in four global regions
  • Forecasts for the worldwide RO market centered on purified water produced for municipal, industrial, military and agriculture/ environmental markets through 2010
  • Analysis of important technology trends
  • Profiles of major market players.


Research for this 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 and company representatives and a review of their published works provide the backbone for an evaluation of the RO equipment water treatment industry. Other sources of information include product literature from RO equipment suppliers, patent information, annual reports, and Communication Co.'s monthly newsletter Membrane & Separation Technology News.

Growth rates of RO system components are not the same for all world regions and are not increasing from the same base. Common to all regions, however, is the fact that sales of RO technology are growing faster than the GDPs of countries installing the systems and more rapidly than the industries that use them. Forecasts in this report are based on announced projects and anticipated capacity additions over the next 5 years.

For the U.S., an estimated 2.5 billion gallons per day of RO will be added to the country's existing capacity of 4.3 billion from 2005 to 2010, an increase of between 9% and 10%. Europe expects to add 400 million gallons per day or more to its current capacity of nearly three quarters of a billion gallons per day, an increase in capacity of slightly more than 9% to nearly 10%. Asia has plans to increase its current RO capacity of half a billion gallons per day by 300 million gallons per day to 400 million gallons per day, an increase of from 10% to 12.5%; the Middle East/Africa region expects to add from 600 million gallons per day to 700 million gallons per day to its 1.1 billion gallons per day, an increase of from 9% to 10%; and the Caribbean/Latin American region anticipates increasing its installed base of 140 million gallons per day by from 85 million gallons per day to 95 million gallons per day, a capacity increase of from 10% to 11%.

Sales of membranes and prefilter cartridges, system components that require replacement will grow one to two percentage points faster than the rest of RO components, which last for the lifetime of a system. These rates are dependent on the region's existing installed capacity and number of modules that will require replacement during the forecast period. For prefilter cartridges, each region's water quality and the industries in which they will primarily be used must also be taken into account.

Sales dollars are as received by membrane manufacturers and converted to U.S. dollars. Equipment costs such as pumps, motors, pressure vessels, and pretreatment are evaluated separately. Post treatment, civil works, real estate, engineering costs, 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 is from BCC data.


The information sources for this study include online research, patent literature, technical journals and interviews with principals in the industry. The monthly newsletter Membrane & Separation 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 numerous years that includes sessions on 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; Aquastat, the United Nation's global water information system; and publications from the International Desalination Association, European Desalination Association and the Middle East Desalination Research Center. Projections for each market are made in terms of constant dollars. Historical values are for the year given.


During the past 6 years, Susan Hanft has authored more than 12 BCC market opportunity reports in the fields of membrane technology and water/wastewater treatment. Hanft also serves as editor of the BCC newsletter, Membrane & Separations Technology News.

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

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.


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