Consumer and industrial demand for clean water will drive the market for cross-flow membrane systems and replacement membranes to over $11 billion in 2011, up from $8.3 billion in 2007, according to a report by McIlvaine Company (

The report, titled RO/UF/MF World Markets, shows osmosis membranes represent 45 percent of total sales, ultrafiltration and nanofiltration account for 20 percent of the market, and microfiltration accounts for 30 percent of the market.

McIlvaine says microfiltration sales have been rapidly expanding due to the needs for purifying drinking water. The cost of this technology is not much greater than the media (usually sand) filtration, which McIlvaine says has been the workhorse of municipal water filtration for many decades. McIlvaine says Microfiltration is more efficient than media filtration and has been proven to capture the micro organisms responsible for some of the outbreaks of illness due to water quality.

Ethanol plants are also cited in the report as key drivers of demand for membrane filtration, as four gallons of treated water are needed for every gallon of ethanol. As a result, McIlvaine says U.S. water use will need to rise to 120 billion gallons/yr in order to reach President Bush’s target of ethanol accounting for 20 percent of the transportation fuels. This will drive membrane demand in the United States.

The explosive growth in bottled water consumption in developing countries is also contributing to the growth of membrane sales, according to McIlvaine, as an unreliable water supply and a rapidly growing middle class make bottled water an attractive option.