What Segments Make Up The Water Industry? An Introduction

Having transitioned across to the water industry from a previous career in natural resources, I feel I am in a good position to give an overview of the water industry and the various segments that it is composed of. Like all industrial sectors, the general structure of the water industry’s main players follows logical divisions to optimize business efficiency and ensure optimal outputs for the end user. The potential number of divisions is limitless, however, if looking at a general broad brushed introduction, the water industry can be grouped into 5 main segments.

The industry behind the transport, treatment and analysis of water has been a part of humanity for millennia.

The water industry is comprised of three main segments: Transport, the movement of water, Treatment meaning the improvement of water and Analytics, referring to testing and monitoring of water. The next set of divisions within the industry is made of Combinations of these three primary segments.

Transport: Water Movement

The transport side of the water business is divided into two broad product types: Pumps, which move water from place to place as well as mixers, which are focused on the agitation of water without necessarily moving it from place to place.


Despite its rather simplistic summary, pumps are an incredibly diverse market segment with a huge variety of pump technology, material types and applications. Pump design and optimization actually represent quite an exciting sector to focus on in the industry due to the often high demands from the industry requiring constant innovation. Some examples of this can include the material side of the sector, with some pumps having to deal with extremely hostile work environments due to corrosive contaminants or high sediment loads, this leads to a constant push to increase working life and reliability amongst the other capacity-related targets.


As the name suggests, mixers are machines that are designed to ‘Mix’ water, the reasoning behind the requirements is usually related to creating a homogenous mixture of solvent (water) and the solute be it an intentional additive or an unwanted contaminant. Working in this sector of the water industry has a similar set of constraints and challenges to pumps, with mixers often being used in extremely viscous contaminated environments and as such requiring a constant research and development cycle to ensure product advancement with industry demands.

Treatment: Water Improvement

Water treatment plants require constant agitation to optimize the relevant process.

The treatment side of the water business has many divisions, all with a common goal in that all aspects of water treatment aim to improve the quality of the water for the required use, this could be for consumption, agriculture or industrial uses.

Treatment is quite difficult to divide into smaller categories because there are so many types, however, the logical split is desalination, disinfection and filtration.


Probably the easiest treatment type to explain, desalination refers specifically to the removal of salt from the water via various means including reverse osmosis, distillation and evaporation among others. For a more detailed look at the various types of desalination have a look at my article on the topic What Are The 6 Different Desalination Types?

In terms of the industry itself, desalination is booming, as the drinking after gets more scarce and populations continue to increase, there is an abundance of investment in new desalination plants and technology. Generally speaking, the middle east including Israel is the world leader in both desalination plant projects and technology, however, Australia, Southern Europe and the USA also have significant desalination industries.

If you are interested in the ten largest desalination projects around the world, have a look at my brief article on the topic Desalination Plants Around The World: The Ten Largest.


Arguably covering the broadest scope of topics, disinfection incorporates anything that involves the sterilization of water through the removal or neutralizing of bacteria and other potentially harmful enzymes.

Disinfection can involve additive treatments like chlorine or ozone, electromagnetic techniques like ultraviolet treatment as well as some simple techniques like boiling water and even some of the aforementioned desalination techniques like reverse osmosis & particularly distillation have disinfection properties. The key points of difference between purification & desalination are highlighted in the article Purification and Desalination: 5 Key Comparisons.

The most common disinfection techniques globally are chlorination and ozonation which are utilized by municipalities due to their effectiveness at scale, If you are interested I wrote a quick comparison article on the topic Is Ozonation Better Than Chlorination? 5 Key Comparisons. As you would expect, ozonation and chlorination also provide the best opportunities for employment and investment more so from an operations viewpoint but also from a technological standpoint with increasing ozone efficiency and chlorine optimization.


The concept of filtration is simple, however, its uses can be very complicated

The simplest of water treatment options, Water filtration involves the physical separation of contaminants from water with the use of a mesh-like barrier, more colloquially known as a filter. The filter stops contaminants from passing by being made up of openings of a certain size, of which oversized particles cannot pass.

The filtration segment of the water industry is incredibly diverse, with some sort of filtration being involved as a pre-treatment step in almost all water treatment techniques including disinfection and desalination. Filtration is widely used due to its high efficiency at removing insoluble particles from water which then makes more intensive processes like reverse osmosis much more efficient. When diving into specifics, there is of course a line where filtration stops and purification begins which I looked into in my article Water Filtration V Water Purification: A Succinct Comparison.

Employment and investment opportunities related to filtration span everything from consumer to heavy industry using technology development and large-volume sales. The sector deserves an article in itself which I intend on writing in good time!

Analytics: Water Testing & Monitoring

The analytics side of the water industry is focused on measuring water quality and flow, the applications for this are both testing and ongoing monitoring in household and industrial settings.

Considered the more high-tech of the industry segments, analytics utilizes a variety of sensors and meters to accurately provide information about a given body of water. Swimming pools have chlorine sensors and temperature sensors, farms have flow meters to monitor and even control the amount of water in the crop or livestock. Industrial applications have sensors to detect the presence of unwanted contaminants or to actively monitor concentrations of reagents, the potential uses for sensors and analytics in the water industry a diverse.

The demand for investment and employment in this segment of the industry is high, particularly in industrialized economies like Germany and the USA which rely on such sensors to efficiently run their industrial processes.

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