Water treatment Digital Solutions Europe

Aquatech Amsterdam’s Worlds within worlds

Thursday, 12 October 2023

The four Aquatech Worlds at this year’s event offer a diverse range of presentations that delve into the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the water sector in the coming decade. Rhys Owen, Research Director at BlueTech Research, takes a closer look at the details to paint a comprehensive picture of what's in store.

Four new worlds 

Aquatech Amsterdam will feature four new ‘Worlds’ this year. These are focussed areas of the show which aim to provide attendees with a comprehensive experience tailored to their specific interests and challenges. 

The distinct realms of Clean Water World, Waste Water and Resources World, Industrial and Corporate Water World and Digital World will gather together content, challenges, networking opportunities and a chance to collaborate on best practices.

Each world has a packed programme of guest speakers and presentations. Below we pick out a small selection of some of the presentations which connect with BlueTech’s research themes and cover the key areas which we feel will impact the water industry in the next 10 years.


Clean Water World/Aquastage

There are increasing challenges to drinking water treatment, ranging from the threat of emerging contaminants such as PFAS and microplastics, to rising energy prices and climate change and water scarcity.

Aquatech Amsterdam is shining a light on all of these at its Clean Water World, with a particular emphasis on desalination and reuse. The desalination market continues to grow strongly, with ever-more ambitious municipal projects as well as increasing industry adoption. 

Industrial/municipal reuse and brine management are two of the key areas of opportunity over the next decade that BlueTech Research has identified, and we are particularly keen to track innovation in this area. 

A key session will be ‘How can desalination address emerging clean water challenges?’ scheduled for 11.00 – 13.00 on Tuesday 7th. The speakers include, among others, Walid Khoury of Desalytics, Jochen Kallenberg from Dryden Aqua, Omya’s Nicholas Nelson and Domingo Zarzo Martinez of SACRY Water. 
It will be followed later by BlueTech Research Analyst Matt Mallory speaking on the subject of ‘Innovations in Desalination’ (14.15 – 14.45). Below is a diagram from BlueTech’s recent report, New Frontiers in Desalination and Water Reuse Technologies, which looks at the relative commercial and technical progress of technologies.

A key trend in new desalination technologies is the focus on decentralized applications, driven by the dominance of large conglomerates in traditional desalination markets. Start-up companies are focusing on more niche markets that demand affordable solutions with lower costs and sustainable energy profiles. 

Membrane distillation and solvent extraction have emerged as promising technologies that are expected to gain commercial traction in the near term, while several other emerging technologies remain at an earlier development stage. This may be a sub-set of more niche technologies, but it is also growing quickly. BlueTech estimates that it currently represents less than $5 million per year globally but has the potential to reach up to $100 million by 2033. 

Comparison of commercial development of emerging desalination technologies

In terms of emerging contaminants, PFAS dominates the conversation in North America, and increasingly in Europe as well. Clean Water World will host two interesting sessions on PFAS: ‘PFAS update: regulations, testing, treatment and disposal’, by Francis DeSilva of ResinTech will be from 16:15 - 17:00 on Monday 6th. ‘PFAS: where are we now?’ will be presented by Dr Catherine McIntyre, BlueTech Research Analyst, at 13.45 – 14.15 also on Monday 6th. Both talks will be repeated on the Tuesday.

Dr McIntrye’s presentation will touch on the state of removal as well as destruction technologies, and BlueTech’s assessment of removal costs. We have also been looking into PFAS sensors – an early-stage sector which will prove vital to managing the issue. Below is a snapshot of our work on this, which also covered biological sensors. The table below compares the merits of two more conventional methods: optical and electrochemical sensors. 

Table 1: Benefits and drawbacks of optical and electrochemical PFAS-sensors

Sensor type


Potential drawbacks

Optical sensors

  • High sensitivity for PFAS detection, often in the parts-per-billion (ppb) or parts-per-trillion (ppt) range.
  • Excellent selectivity for specific PFAS compounds or classes of compounds.
  • Rapid, real-time or near real-time measurements.
  • Non-destructive and non-invasive.
  • Limited coverage of PFAS compounds, depending on the design and selectivity of the sensors.
  • Possible interference from sample matrices can affect accuracy and reliability.
  • Calibration against reference standards or lab-based methods may be necessary for accurate quantification.

Electrochemical sensors

  • High portability and field-applicability; suitable in remote areas.
  • Cost-effective measurement.
  • Rapid, real-time or near real-time measurements.
  • High versatility in targeting specific compounds or classed of PFAS.
  • Limited sensitivity as compared to optical or laboratory methods (although still in relevant range).
  • Selectivity may be challenging in complex matrices.
  • Calibration against reference standards may be necessary.

A final piece of the puzzle in clean water is of course water reuse. For many utilities, particularly in the US, municipal reuse has become a conventional technology – “part of the furniture” in terms of their toolkit for managing water supplies. The focus of innovation has shifted slightly to smaller scale, decentralised projects treating more challenging waters such as greywater and blackwater. 

‘Grey water recycling – the next big thing’, will be a presentation by Şenol Ağaç, Founder of Sustainable Water Consulting, taking place at 14.45 – 15.30 on Monday 6th. As the talk will outline, grey water recycling is about to become a standard technology for new buildings and renovations.

BlueTech Research Analyst Martino Finotelli will be building on this theme in his presentation, ‘Decentralisation and the 50-Litre home’ at 13.15-13.45 on Monday 6th. Shower recirculation, harvesting heat from wastewater, rainwater capture and even resource recovery from wastewater at a neighbourhood level are all being investigated by a range of start-up companies in this area.

A recent BlueTech report, The 50 Litre-Home, investigated the potential for water savings using a mixture of greywater recycling, water efficient appliances and rainfall capture in four different cities. The results are shown in the chart below. It illustrates how a large proportion of most of the cities consumption could be met in theory with treated greywater. 


Comparison of water use vs availability of greywater for reuse in four cities


Industrial and Corporate Water World

Large companies have already woken up to the effect of water risk on their bottom lines. Industry is one of the largest water users in Europe, and in some cases large corporates have come under political pressure over their water use, notably technology firms operating datacentres in Ireland. At the same time, many companies wish to enact water positive policies and play an active part in responsibly managing their watersheds.

The Industrial and Corporate Water World, organised jointly with Aquatech Amsterdam and Wetsus, aims to create a meeting place industry experts can exchange their ideas and experiences with their peers in industry as well as with potential solutions providers. This world will feature case studies from the food and beverage, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and pulp and paper industries.

Below is some BlueTech analysis comparing typical water use rates of some of these industrial sectors, alongside the average value typically generated per cubic meter of water, and also compared to the wastewater produced. Pulp and paper, for example, is one of the more water-intensive industries. The chart shows that the gap between the value of its economic output (the orange line) and the wastewater volumes produced (the blue line) is the largest of the sectors compared here. This means it has the lowest overall value per m3 of wastewater produced (the green line).

‘Water innovation fuels water stewardship activities’ by Carles Crespo of Isle Group will cover the areas of corporate water sustainability, at 12.00-12.30 on Monday 6th. 

Comparison of water intensity of various industrial sectors

A key to responsible management of water resources is how to handle the often extremely challenging wastewater streams from various manufacturing and mining processes. There are several specific presentations on a wide range of subjects planned on Thursday, including: 

  • ‘Process water for hydrogen production’ by Paola Granados Mendoza of HyCC - 11:25 - 11:40, Thursday 9th. 
  • ‘Water management in the data centre – current situation, challenges and future perspectives’ by Microsoft’s Lewis Richards - 11:40 - 11:55, Thursday 9th.
  • ‘Successful water use reduction in lithium mining in Chile’ by Stefan Debruyne from SQM - 14:25 - 14:40, Thursday 9th.

On Tuesday 7th between 11.15 and 13.00, a more general session on challenging waters, covering reuse, wastewater and innovation will also feature a number of speakers from Wetsus, Fluor, Chemours and Vopak. 

BlueTech’s own Matt Mallory will also share some insights from working closely with some of the world’s largest corporations his presentation Industrial reuse: behind the scenes, at 13.20–13.40 on Wednesday 8th.

Dr McIntyre of BlueTech Research will also present ‘The future of electrochemical wastewater treatment’ at 13.00 – 13.20 on Wednesday 8th. Because of its high costs and energy use, electrochemical treatment, especially electrochemical oxidation (EOx), has been seen as a “last resort” treatment for recalcitrant materials in industrial discharges. The picture is now changing rapidly, with companies rushing to develop new technologies or adapt their offerings to target PFAS in particular. Below is a snapshot comparing the commercial progress of various electrochemical treatment offerings, taken from a recent BlueTech report. There are a number of providers that have been in the space since pre-2010 such as Arvia and Element Six. These all have technology that has been fairly well established since then. Things remained steady for a few years and then since 2016, a lot more players have entered the market. These are often start-ups that have been motivated by the interest in PFAS destruction.

Commercial development vs founding year of selected providers of electrochemical wastewater treatment technology


Waste Water and Resources World

Amongst the hottest topics in water at the moment are the circular economy, resource recovery and the drive towards net zero and the energy transition. The world is undergoing a revolution in our approach to waste and sustainability – although at varying speeds and with varying results. The Waste Water and Resources World offers visitors a focussed hotspot to learn all about the latest trends and technologies with a full programme of seminars and presentations from the forerunners accelerating these trends. 

A particularly interesting presentation is ‘Reaching Net zero goals: coupling ocean-based co2 removal and wastewater management’ from Dr Juan Buceta, Director of Pronoe Earth, 14:15 - 14:30 on Wednesday, November 8th.

Utilities are at the frontline of net zero efforts within the water industry. Omya’s Nicholas Nelson will present Greener, Safer, Cheaper- Omya Environmental Solutions’ Approach to CO2 Emission Reduction in Water Treatment Processes on Wednesday, November 8th at 11:15 - 12:00. 

BlueTech published a report titled ‘Getting to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas emissions for Water and Wastewater Treatment’. Below is a snapshot showing how water treatment operations fall across scope 1, 2 and 3 type emissions. 

Outline of emissions from water treatment operations at a typical plant

‘Resource recovery from water: how to solve the challenge of value creation’ will be a session on Tuesday 7th at 14:00 - 14:45, looking at the puzzle of upcycling products from wastewater. Recovery of nutrients, cellulose and bioplastics from industry and wastewater only makes sense if the recovered products have high-end applications (e.g., In agriculture, chemistry, construction, etc.).

Setting up these value chains is quite a challenge. In this expert interview, watertech companies and utilities will share their experience in setting up these value chains.

A key resource to be recovered of course, is energy – and there is much commercial and research effort going into harnessing biogas from sludge using various advanced treatment techniques. Below is BlueTech’s analysis of the advanced sludge treatment market, which we estimate to be worth around $45 million a year. 

BlueTech’s analysis of the advanced sludge treatment market


Digital World / AquaStage

One of the strongest trends in water is the move towards digital water and smart water networks. The Digital World, powered by SWAN & Bluefield Research, will offer visitors a focussed hotspot to learn all about the latest trends and technologies in the sector via mini seminars. Digital solutions for water are booming; AI, machine learning, Digital Twins, Cyber Security, Big Data, Sensors and asset management are all fast-expanding areas in their own right. 

Digital twins in particular will play a key role in the water sector’s transformation. Shayna Ramboz, COO of SWAN Forum will be touching on this subject as part of the SWAN Welcome & Session Context, at various times across the week and will also present specifically on DTs at ‘Digital Twins: From Component to System Level’ on Wednesday 8th, 14:00 - 15:00.

SWAN and BlueTech Research recently collaborated on a global survey of utilities and their attitudes towards digital twins, which yielded some interesting results. The survey can be found here. Below is an extract showing which applications utilities associate with digital twins, with optimization of pumping and energy consumption being the most popular.