Why water conservation is business-critical in dialysis machine design

Could a change in dialysis machine design save enough water each year to supply a city the size of San Francisco? How much more attractive would those dialysis machines be to hospitals and healthcare services in a world where fresh water is a scarce commodity?

Water scarcity is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. The United Nations lists access to fresh water as a basic human right, but half the world’s cities struggle on a daily basis to supply enough clean water to their populations.

If water consumption continues at its current rate, it’s estimated that 1.8 billion people will face absolute water scarcity by 2025. As a result, governments and public alike are pushing for water-saving solutions in every sector, including healthcare.

Preserving the world’s most precious resource

Hemodialysis is a massive water-consuming treatment. Today, a treatment of 4 hours uses around 120 liters of highly purified water. For a patient receiving 3-4 treatments a week, this adds up to a water bill of 30,000 liters per year (nearly 10,000 gallons) for that patient alone. In hospitals with a large dialysis center, dialysis treatment can consume 10% of the entire hospital’s annual water budget. According to Esben Gad, Vice President of Business Development at Aquaporin, the problem isn’t going away.

“As the dialysis patient population continues to grow, so does water consumption from treatment. In areas such as South Africa, California and India, where water is an increasingly scarce and precious resource, providing water for dialysis treatment will become more and more problematic – unless something is done to cut down on water use.”

Water-saving dialysis machines could sway decision makers

The solution may be closer than many people think. New leaps in forward osmosis water treatment, driven by highly efficient filters like those produced by Aquaporin, are currently being trialed in many industries – and could reduce water consumption in dialysis treatment by as much as 75%.

“The healthcare sector is becoming increasingly aware of sustainability and water scarcity issues. This trend will only become more important in the coming years,” says Esben Gad. “Imagine if we could save 20,000 liters per hemodialysis patient per year. Add that up across the 3.4 million dialysis patients worldwide, and it’s easily enough to supply water to a city the size of San Francisco.”

Reducing the cost of treatment

Finally, there’s the question of cost. Although water as a raw material makes up a tiny amount of a hospital’s dialysis budget, reducing this cost can still result in significant savings.

The dialysis center at the University Hospital of Copenhagen in Denmark, for example, uses over 10 million liters of water a year, at a cost of around EUR 80,000. Reducing this by 75% would result in an annual saving of EUR 60,000 – a saving that’s even more attractive to national health services, where the taxpayer ultimately funds both dialysis treatment and water utilities.

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