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The Dow Chemical Co.'s subsidiary, FilmTec Corp., has sold enough of the Filmtec reverse osmosis membranes in China to purify more than 50 million gallons of drinking water everyday.
Dow began marketing its membrane technology in China during the 1980s. It was not until the mid-1990s that sales began to take off. An increasingly prosperous population in China now is able to afford purified drinking water using reverse osmosis technology. Shortage of clean water as well as increased incomes have led to the boom in the potable water business.
Successful economic and industrial development over the past two decades has resulted in water resource contamination of rivers, lakes and underground water sources. Unevenly located water resources make the water issue even more complicated for a growing economy.
Today, 400 of 600 major cities in China face water shortages. The scarcity, due to contamination and lack of supply capacity, is leading government officials to make policy changes in the way the country's water resources are allocated. New environmental regulations, strengthening of existing regulations and new water projects throughout the country have increased awareness and sensitivity to the need to conserve existing sources of water.
Chinese citizens are learning how to supply their own needs for pure water for drinking and cooking. To access a safer supply, people patronize bottled water suppliers that use reverse osmosis to purify water down to the microscopic level. Vending machines that dispense reverse osmosis purified water are also becoming more noticeable in major Chinese cities.
The result? It is not uncommon to see people in Chinese cities hauling five-gallon jugs of water from retail outlets to their homes. The public's increased awareness of the water issue is leading to a boom in water purification equipment suppliers. Dow believes that growth in sales of reverse osmosis membranes in China will be growing in the foreseeable future.