Working around the world to close the loop in the water cycle and enable the efficient use of precious water resources
Growing demand and tightening supply of water
In Japan, water has long been taken for granted: as the saying goes, “Water and safety are virtually free.” Considering the widespread consumption of bottled water in the country today, it is difficult to continue to think of water as being free. Still, people in Japan have an unquestioning faith that if you turn on the tap, water will flow out of it. If we look at water usage around the world, however, it becomes readily apparent that the situation in Japan is far from the norm.
The majority of the Earth's water resources consist of seawater, with fresh water representing only 3 percent. When it comes to water that is usable by humans, the figure plummets to 0.01 percent. What's more, there are no alternatives to existing water resources. These resources are unevenly distributed around the world and appropriate infrastructure is required in order to access them. Such background factors are the reason for water shortages in some regions of the world, particularly the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.
As a result of increasing populations and accelerating urbanization and industrialization, water demands have been growing continuously while the capacity of the environment to supply safe and sanitary water has been deteriorating. Given this, water security is expected to become an even more serious issue in the coming years. Reflecting this recognition, the water sector's attempts to find solutions to water shortages have been drawing global attention since the early 2000s. This heightened attention is of course reflecting growing awareness among industrialized nations that it is their responsibility to help developing countries achieve a safe and hygienic living environment.
Sumitomo Corporation aims to become part of the solution. We have been endeavoring to solve water issues in regions in which demand for water is soaring.
Sewage treatment facilities in Mexico
Capitalizing on our capabilities as a Sogo Shosha (trading company) in the water treatment market
Sumitomo Corporation is currently providing water treatment services to approximately 2.5 million people in Turkey, Mexico, China and other countries. We aspire to increase our service customer base to more than 20 million people and become one of the 10 largest water management companies in the world within the next several years. To this end, we acquired all shares of Sutton & East Surrey Water plc, a water only supply and distribution company in England, with the aim of fully participating in a concession business for public water and sewerage services, a business expected to grow significantly in the years to come. In order to contribute to solving water-related issues, the water sector, ourselves included, needs to focus its efforts not only on developing the water supply systems indispensable to our daily lives, but also on sewer systems, an area which generally lags behind relatively well-developed water supply systems. Unlike the good old days, when people were able to discharge raw wastewater into streams and the ocean in anticipation of natural purification processes, we can no longer do this as the amount of wastewater generated by significantly larger populations is more than the natural environment can accommodate. Discharging untreated wastewater has become a major contributor to environmental pollution.
Sumitomo Corporation entered the wastewater treatment market in 2004, when we launched a joint project in Mexico with Degrémont S.A., a major France-based water service company. Leveraging the combination of Degrémont's extensive experience and expertise in water facilities operations and Sumitomo's strengths in coordinating finance and other overall project elements along with its international network, the project to recycle wastewater for agricultural and industrial use has been helping improve the local living environment and develop local communities.
Water treatment facilities in Izmit, Turkey
Water treatment facilities of SESW in England
Toward a better water environment in the world's two most populous nations
Based on know-how in water utilities operations that we have developed through our projects in Mexico and Turkey, we have started or are planning to launch water infrastructure projects in countries where rapid economic growth has spurred demand for more water utilities, such as China, India, and Southeast Asian countries, and in regions facing dire water shortages, such as the Middle East and North Africa.
Specifically, we have successfully participated in an independent water project (IWP) undertaken in Oman using reverse osmosis technology. Furthermore, we entered into a business alliance with China's largest water company, Beijing Capital Co., Ltd. As the initial project under the partnership, we are conducting a joint wastewater treatment business in China. In contrast with the rapid pace of the country's economic growth, China has a limited availability of sanitary sewer systems. In another rapidly growing country, India, we have also formed an alliance, this time with VA TECH WABAG, Ltd, an India-based water service giant, to operate joint projects in India and even the Middle East.
In China and India, the world's first and second most populous nations, the water utilities sector not only has huge business potential but also has an important role to play in improving quality of life.
Conceptual drawing of a desalination plant to be constructed in Oman
Developing water recycling systems by tapping the public sector's experience and expertise
In Japan, water supply and sewerage is usually undertaken by local governments, which boast world-class skills and technologies for operating, managing, and maintaining water and wastewater treatment plants and water and sewer pipes, achieving low water leakage rates, and reusing treated wastewater, among others. Sumitomo Corporation is seeking to help provide greater access to safe and sanitary water in countries facing water shortages by offering an integrated solution that combines the know-how of Japanese local government outfits with the technologies of the private sector and our own integrated capabilities as a Sogo Shosha (trading company) together into a single package. To this end, we have already taken the first step by launching a project in Malaysia in cooperation with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG).
Establishing water recycling systems, as well as sewerage systems for maintaining a hygienic water environment, is the key to achieving the effective use of water resources. However, many developing countries, which are focused on rapid economic development, do not have such recycling systems in place due to the lack of a sufficient number of sewage treatment facilities. Mobilizing the know-how and capabilities of TMG and Sumitomo, we have been working to provide an integrated solution to this issue, envisioning cities in Southeast Asia having tap water that is just as clean and safe as Japan's in the next 10 years.
This joint initiative in Malaysia has been attracting a lot of attention from a wide spectrum of communities and is being hailed as a highly meaningful project toward creating a safe and hygienic living environment for the country's residents.
Sewage treatment facilities in San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico
Opening up new possibilities within the water sector by way of public and private partnerships
The global water utilities market should expect to see the increasingly greater participation of the private sector. In other words, an increasing number of projects and services that were traditionally run by government organizations are likely to be entrusted to the private sector. In this context, we believe that an integrated approach—combining the experience and expertise in water infrastructure construction and operation of Japanese local governments with the technological excellence and capital of private enterprises—that supports individual countries' plans for developing water supply and sewerage systems will serve to improve their water infrastructure. Sumitomo Corporation intends to play a vital role in leading such initiatives by fully drawing upon the global network and business expertise and capabilities it has developed over the years as well as business functions it acquired through mergers and acquisitions. As we move forward, the joint initiative with TMG will be followed by many other projects in other countries and regions under which we will offer integrated solutions based on public and private collaboration to develop water supply and sewerage systems. We are committed to creating optimal water recycling systems, achieving effective water usage, and creating a safe and sanitary water environment in areas with limited availability of water resources.
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