UV Disinfection: A Sustainable Choice for Clean Water

4 minutes

UV Disinfection

UV Disinfection can be tracked back to the late 1800’s with research highlighting the impact of sunlight hindering microbial growth, however increased prevalence from the 1930’s with advancements in technology and the increased availability of UV lamps which enhanced the scalability of UV disinfection.

Fast forward to today, where technology allows UV disinfection to have a variety of applications across industries and functions as a safe and effective way to kill microorganisms. In the coming years, UV disinfection will continue to grow and increase in prevalence across industry sectors. Across the globe, there is greater emphasis, awareness and action around public health and safety so we expect the demand to continue to increase for UV disinfection over time.

According to Florida Water Resources Journal, the projected growth of the UV disinfection equipment market is to reach $9.1 billion by 2027, with market worth $5 billion in 2022.

What are the benefits of UV disinfection?

UV disinfection is widely considered a sustainable alternative to water treatment solutions in comparison to more invasive, chemical driven solutions.

We spoke with Giuseppe Faretra, Segment Sales Manager at Nuvonic who shared his thoughts on why UV should be considered the sustainable option for water disinfection; "Water resources are under increasing strain due to a combination of factors such as climate change, erratic weather patterns, and agricultural practices. This mounting pressure has led to water scarcity and a decline in water quality, posing significant challenges to global sustainability. Governments can significantly enhance their environmental stewardship by embracing UV treatment as one of the most cutting-edge technologies for protecting the environment (it is chemical free) as well as for respecting the carbon footprint reduction policies (UV requires less kW / m3/h of treated water than other disinfection technologies like Ozone or Membranes). Definitely UV is a disinfection technology with the best cost/benefit ratio."

Reduced impact on the environment

With UV disinfection there are no harmful residues or chemicals once the treatment process is complete, this means it is a safe method for both wildlife and humans with no potential health risks.

UV disinfection has a minimal environmental impact as there are no harmful byproducts in the water like traditional chemical methods present, such as chlorine.

Low energy Consumption

The process of UV disinfection has a low energy consumption which also results in a smaller carbon footprint. Some methods of water treatment can involve a significant amount of water wastage however UV disinfection does not, which is an important consideration when carrying out water treatment in areas where water resources are limited.

Efficient and effective water treatment solution

The success rate of UV water disinfection is highly efficient, it is 99.99% effective when targeting microorganisms and inactivates a broad-spectrum including viruses and bacteria, some of which are resistant to chlorine so chemical disinfection can be less effective. UV water disinfection is also a quick process, water will flow through the UV chamber with no need for holding time.

What are the limitations of UV disinfection?

While UV disinfection has a great number of advantages and applications, there are also some limitations and disadvantages to be aware of.

Cost, Maintenance and Safety

Setting up a UV disinfection system can initially be a costly investment and also takes a high degree of maintenance in comparison to other methods. UV lamps only have a limited lifespan and so lamp replacements are required to maintain peak performance, they also require regular cleaning. There are also some safety considerations, so measures need to be taken throughout handling and operations of UV disinfection.

Limited Reach

The method of UV disinfection only disinfects the area it hits directly, this means it has a limited reach and can potentially leave pockets of unexposed microbes are unable to penetrate through in the line of sight of the UV lamp, ultimately impacting the effectiveness of the treatment at times.

Dependent on Water Quality

Success and effectiveness of UV disinfection is largely reliant on the quality of water, effectiveness is greatly reduced when water is dirty, cloudy or with high turbidity. An additional step to filter the water prior to the UV treatment may be required to ensure full effectiveness of the UV light penetrating all microorganisms.

Giuseppe Faretra, Segment Sales Manager at Nuvonic highlights the limitations with UV disinfection; "Limits are in every technology, the major limit of UV (absence of persistence compared to chemical products) it is balanced by the simplicity of the system, the instantaneous efficiency and selectivity of the treatment depending on the contaminants (this reflects positively on the specific energy consumption for each m3 of treated water), the drastic reduction of accidents & risks, the elimination of the need to handle dangerous and flammable chemicals."

UV Disinfection application across Industries

UV disinfection can be applied across a range of industries to eliminate harmful microorganisms in an effective and safe way without the need for chemical disinfection. Some of the areas where UV disinfection has the most impact includes:

Water Treatment

The process of purifying drinking water to eliminate viruses, bacteria or parasites is one of the most commonly used applications of UV disinfection. In comparison to chemical disinfection, it is a much more efficient and safer process as it leaves no harmful residue. Wastewater treatment plants implement UV disinfection in the final step in wastewater treatment, this ensures that safety standards are met when effluent is discharged into the environment.

A large-scale example of UV water disinfection treatment is Singapore’s NEWater programme. Utilising a combination of techniques, UV disinfection forms a core role in ensuring the water in Singapore safe, clean and playing a part in driving water sustainability in the country.

Food and Beverage

Across the food and beverage sectors, UV disinfection is applied to treat water used in the production of drinks, food processing water, manufacturing and processing equipment across sites. The process of UV disinfection ensures the safety and high quality of food and drink production, eliminating pathogens and extending the shelf life of products.

Tony Leigh – Senior Global Product Manager at Evoqua Water Technologies shares insights into the benefits and application of UV disinfection in the beverage industry here.

Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals

In healthcare and clinical settings, UV disinfection is used to prevent the spread of infections and ensure the environment is sterile through the disinfecting of air, equipment and surfaces. As a result, this has a positive impact on the number of hospital-acquired infections. The same process is applied in a pharmaceutical setting to prevent contamination and ensure the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals is sterile.

Swimming Pools

The adoption of UV disinfection is being recognised as a safer and more cost-effective way to ensure the water in swimming pools is clean, safe and free of bacteria, this is in comparison to the traditional process of using chemicals such as chlorine.

Air Conditioning

UV disinfection significantly improves the air quality through integration with air handling units in buildings, eliminating airborne microbes which helps reduce the spread of germs and allergens. It also enhances system efficiencies by killing microorganisms which can build up within the air conditioning systems and can also contribute to lower energy consumption through these efficiencies.

Connect with an executive recruiter

At CSG Talent, our water disinfection recruitment team have a strong track record supporting global organisations that manufacture safe and sustainable UV-based solutions. If you’re keen to share your own insights into the water disinfection market or if you’re looking to seek experienced talent in the industry, please get in touch here. Alternatively, if you’re considering a new job opportunity within water treatment of UV water disinfection, check out more on what’s going on in the market here.