3 Takeaways From Aquatech China 2018

By Dawn McGregor 16 July, 2018

4 years on, CWR's McGregor shares key takeaways from Aquatech & the Industrial Water Leaders Forum 2018

Clear environ protection focus at expo; additional themes (waste & air) show understanding on holistic solutions
Water Ten & other regs focus at IWLF; leader co's share how they capitalise on water & wastewater challenges
With Aquatech China & IWLF bigger & more diverse than ever, industry appears on the right track

In June this year, China Water Risk was again a supporting organisation and presenter at the Industrial Water Leadership Forum (IWLF) at Aquatech China in Shanghai. Both IWLF and Aquatech China were bigger than ever. Below are our three key takeaways. Meanwhile, see our takeaways from when we went in 2014 here.

1. Aquatech China: Bigger, more diverse & more on “environmental protection”

Aquatech China 2018 was big; held at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, which is one of the world’s largest buildings comprising 1.47 million square meters in total. Simply put, there was a lot to see.

Additional expo themes (waste, air etc.) show industry understanding on holistic solutions

The Expo was also more diverse, going beyond its water technology and wastewater focus with additional expo themes including: Flowtech China, Buildex China, Waste Ecotech China & Air Ecotech China. There were also Smart Water pitches at the Imagine H2O booth, where entrepreneurs pitched innovative solutions to China’s water challenges. Clearly the diverse but holistic requirements to tackle pollution are trickling down into industry and trade, which is positive to see. It also shows how the expo has developed from 2014, when we noted the lack of energy/soil/holistic solutions.

Aquatech China 2018 1

“Walking around the vast & comprehensive expo, it really felt like a new environmental era in China”

Also notable at Aquatech China this year was the focus and prominence of “environmental protection” with the words in many posters/signs around the expo and with many companies even having them in their name (see photos below). Trade booths were predominantly local Chinese firms though there were foreign brands, including many of the big names. Walking around the vast and comprehensive expo, it really felt like a new environmental era in China.

Aquatech China 2018 2

2. Water Ten & regulatory focus clear at Industrial Water Leader Forum

China’s fast moving regulatory landscape, which we have written about extensively, was the focus at this year’s Industrial Water Leaders Forum. Especially China’s ‘Water Pollution Prevention & Control Law’ (“Water Ten”) (which came into force at the start of the year); “Together we will hear their plans to meet the challenge laid down by the Water Ten” – IWLF website.

The first session of the Forum included a deep dive on the Water Ten, “Industrial water outlook under the “water ten rules“, presented by a representative of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning. We also touched on the Water Ten and other key regulations in our presentation, which set the scene on China’s changing waterscape. Other presentations, panel sessions and audience Q&A also featured much discussion on regulations.

Indeed, China’s new and more stringent environmental regulations are impacting industry (see how for textiles here); businesses want to know what they mean, how to be compliant and where the opportunities are, all of which was discussed at the Forum.

Wastewater was another hot topic…

…business unusual models capitalise challenges into opportunities

Wastewater was another hot topic, specifically how businesses are tackling the stringent standards. One notable remark from the day is that given China’s wastewater permit system, if you can eliminate wastewater (zero liquid discharge) then you are not bound by the permit allowance and so the business can grow. Achieving this requires significant CAPEX to cover the technology, implementation etc. but in the long term it can grow business, highlighting that business unusual models (investment/technology/process etc) are the way forward in China. Further points on the limits and opportunities on wastewater were shared by Nestlé and IKEA.

Aquatech China 2018 3

3. Lots of action from leaders but room for more & need industry to move forward

In 2014, we noted in our takeaways that people were split on whether the ‘war on pollution’ is real. In 2018, its clear that the war is real and business know that, as seen by leading companies recognising the risks and opportunities water poses with widespread action. This includes global names like Dell, Nestlé & IKEA, as well as Chinese companies like Sinopec Qilu Petrochemical Water and Wastewater company & Shanghai Electric Power Generation Group, all of which shared their water management successes & challenges. While encouraging, this isn’t surprising given this was the Industrial Water Leaders Forum and so as leaders, expectations are high.

Moreover, with companies like Ecolab at the Forum, sharing their solutions to water challenges, it reaffirms that the technology is out there so its down to other aspects of the business model to change (investment, short- v. long-term strategies etc.) in order to make business more sustainable and ensure future growth; essentially developing business unusual.

However, the Forum did highlight two key points: 1) while leaders are acting, there is still room for more, and 2) other companies in industries need to step up so that an industry as a whole can move forward; there is only so much leaders can do. Questions from the audience reflected this second point with many asking the companies to present on how they manage water & wastewater, what they are doing in response to the Water Ten and so on.

With Aquatech & IWLF bigger & more diverse than ever, industry appears on the right track

With both IWLF and Aquatech China 2018 bigger than ever and with a more holistic offering, it appears that industry is understanding and reflecting the complex and holistic solutions needed to overcome China’s water challenges.


Further Reading

  • Wicked Problems Of Water Quality Governance – Water quality is a more serious threat to water security than its diminishing supply. Hear eight points on this wicked problem from eight water experts as a special edition Water International
  • Water Wars: What Policymakers Can Do – Water conflicts within countries are increasingly prevalent with industrial and even transboundary implications. What can policymakers do? We sat down with World Bank’s Scott Moore to find out
  • 8 Key Challenges In Rural Water Security – Rural water supply in China is challenging due to size, increasing urbanisation & more. China Water Risk’s Feng Hu shares 8 key challenges & reflections from the China Europe Water Platform workshop
  • The Future Of The Paris Agreement – The Paris Agreement has been in effect for more than a year now. How is the rulebook going? What’s next at COP24? Professor Daniel Bodansky from Arizona States University, a climate change law expert, shares his views
  • How To Solve The Global Water Crisis – Most of the world’s water woes can be solved with enough money and willpower. The real challenges are thus not technical but political and ethical. Check out why World Bank’s Scott Moore thinks so
  • 5 Takeaways from Aquatech China 2014 – How real is China’s war on pollution? Will it translate into a growing domestic water market? See what local & foreign industrial leaders have to say in Shanghai and check out our 5 key takeaways from Aquatech China 2014
  • New Tech & Policy For Climate Resilience: 3 Takeaways – Experts say new tech needs policy support at an interdisciplinary forum for climate resilient urban water systems, hosted by the Centre for Water Technology & Policy of the University of Hong Kong. Check out three key takeaways from China Water Risk’s Chien Tat Low and Woody Chan
  • Reactive Dye Revolution – Innovative tech is popping up as Huntsman’s Holger Schlaefke expands on how their new reactive dye saves costs and water plus cut carbon emissions without additional CAPEX
  • Rise of ZLD In China’s Power Sector – Treating air pollution in thermal power plants create hard-to-treat wastewater as a by-product: is zero liquid discharge the way forward? Bluetech Research’s Rhys Owen expands
  • Integrated Wastewater Treatment In PRD – Guangdong needs RMB39.8bn for wastewater treatment in the 13FYP. Hear from CT Environmental Group’s Liang Xiangjing & Zeng Sasha on how a key wastewater plant can help pollution control in the region as well as benefit its various stakeholders
Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads CWR’s work to help corporates navigate increasingly disruptive & material risks from water & climate threats, as well as transitional risks in the supply chain arising from new regulations in China. Here, Dawn engages extensively with the global fashion industry delivering on-ground workshops in China to keynotes and strategic input at European HQs. She has written at length on the end of dirty and thirsty fast fashion and her report to overcome gaps between brands and manufacturers for a clean and circular future inspired the industry to create a new wastewater tool. Dawn also works closely with the property and tourism sectors where she not only conducts strategic assessments of their exposure but builds collective action toward resilience via closed door working groups and invite-only events. Having helped build CWR, Dawn is a frequent keynote, panellist & moderator at events, including being twice selected as the lead-rapporteur at World Water Week. Her articles are cited in various industry publications including the UN’s ‘World Without Water’. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank assessing geo-political risk, crisis management and business resiliency. She was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England, Singapore and Beijing.
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