The low penetration rate offers more potential for desalination in industrial segments; especially in power, metals, oil & gas, chemicals, and petrochemical industries. In the next five years, high growth rate is anticipated, at 7-8.5 per cent, in the industrial segment, according to Frost & Sullivans analysis. There is immense pressure on governments and industries, worldwide, to devise means for replenishing depleting ground water tables. Desalination has been identified as a key technology to address ever-increasing water demand for various applications and to ease the escalating water scarcity situation. The global desalination plant (equipment) market was valued at $10.5 billion in 2010, with top markets being Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US and China. With respect to the impending water crisis and urge to adopt desalination as a problem-solving technology, India is no different from its global counterparts. At present, India holds a minimal share of less than 4 per cent in the global desalination market, but has immense potential because of its vast coastline. Four major drivers for the increasing water demand in India are population, urbanisation, industrialisation, and agriculture, as depicted in Chart 1. Chart 1: Water demand drivers in India High potential In India, both municipal and industrial users are presently adopting desalination systems for their water needs. According to a recent research by Frost & Sullivan, the Indian desalination market was valued at $280 million in 2012.Of the total water requirement by industries (discussed in Table 1) in 2010, less than 1 per cent was met through desalination systems. This low penetration rate offers more potential for desalination in industrial segments; especially in power, metals, oil & gas, chemicals, and petrochemical industries. In the next five years, high growth rate is anticipated, at 7-8.5 per cent, in the industrial segment according to Frost & Sullivans analysis. Considering a business-as-usual scenario, contracted desalination capacity in the industrial segment is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7 per cent between 2010 and 2020. This would translate to a potential of 27 million cu m of desalination capacity by 2020. Even then, desalinated water usage as a percentage of the total industrial water requirement would be under one per cent, which implies that fresh water withdrawals would continue to increase at a much faster rate than today. In order to create a sustainable growth environment, India should focus on developing its water infrastructure through desalination technology aggressively. Two aggressive business scenarios are discussed in Chart 2. According to scenario 1, the contracted capacity potential by 2020 would be 45 million cu m. And, as per scenario 2, it would increase by two times the potential, in a business-as-usual scenario, at 58 million cu m. Chart 2: Contracted desalination capacity in industrial segment Scenario analysis, India The municipal segment is gradually taking up seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination projects, though growth is largely dependent on projects announced by respective state governments. Total water requirement of 20 major coastal cities in India is estimated to be around 8.6 billion cu m in 2026. Of these, five major cities comprising Mumbai, Chennai, Surat, Kolkata, and Vizag accounted for 93 per cent of the demand. This offers immense potential for desalination projects in the municipal segment. Coastline to augment RO desalination initiatives The two types of desalination technologies deployed in India are thermal desalination, which includes Multi-Stage Flash (MSF) and Mechanical Vapour Compression (MVC); and membrane desalination, which comprises SWRO. SWRO has gained more prominence than thermal technologies because of lesser development time and reduced area footprint as compared to thermal desalination technologies. Abundant availability of seawater in key industrial hubs is an added advantage for India. Different types of desalination technologies used in India and their comparative matrix is featured in Table 2. Desalination projects are generally considered more expensive as compared to conventional water treatment technologies.This is one of the critical factors hindering growth of desalination projects in India.Different business models have been employed by industrial and municipal segments to overcome various challenges in this sector. Large-scale municipal desalination projects are currently being executed under Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) or Build, Own, Operate, Transfer (BOOT) based on public-private partnership (PPP) models. The PPP model, launched in accordance with Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) - a reform-linked incentive programme by the Government of India - has helped municipal corporations tackle their funding constraints. The BOT/BOOT projects for the municipal segment are of long term and usually span 20-25 years. On the other hand, the industrial segment has adopted the custom build and transfer model, with an operation and maintenance contract for 3-5 years; since desalination plants capacity in the industrial segment is smaller than the municipal segment. Better practices Poor water management practices currently being adopted by municipal corporations in India. Water distribution networks lack necessary metering systems, because of which municipalities are unable to recover their costs. For instance, metered water connections in Chennai are very low, at 3.5 per cent of the total water connections in the city. Also, water lost through distribution networks (non-revenue water) is another important issue that brings down efficiency levels. Nagpur has the highest rate of non-revenue water loss at 60 per cent. Such poor water management systems and practices result in revenue loss that directly impacts growth of Indias water infrastructure. Thus, with better monitoring of water consumption, necessary funds can be generated by the municipalities themselves. Bright future Desalination is a key solution to address water woes of both municipal and industrial segments in India. Latest developments in the global desalination segment can be brought to India through joint ventures (JVs). Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh are states with high potential for desalination projects in the coming years. By entering into JVs, domestic water and/or infrastructure companies can meet the civil and structural development needs of desalination plants. These companies can also contribute with relevant technological insights, along with offering operation and maintenance expertise.