An analysis of the global water and wastewater membrane-technology market suggests the market could see its revenues double by 2020.

The analysis by Mountain View, Calif.-based Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm, found the market earned revenue of $5.54 billion in 2012 and estimates it will reach $12.07 billion by 2020.

Although well established in the U.S., much of Asia and parts of Europe, the use of membranes for wastewater and water purification and treatment is used less widely in Eastern Europe and developing countries, says Paulina Szyplinska, Frost & Sullivan energy and environment industry analyst. While research and development efforts have led to advances in membrane filtration, global water scarcity, rising water pollution and economic development have added to the demand for membrane-based water and wastewater treatment technologies in countries that might not have at first embraced them, she says.

A traditional barrier to the widespread adoption of membrane technology has been the cost, which can exceed the cost for conventional systems, largely because they are fairly energy-intensive.

Szyplinska says membrane manufacturers currently are exploring ways to make their membranes more energy-efficient.

Glenn Vicevic, GE Water's product management leader, notes, "Energy costs can be a very important part of a customer's making a decision." But GE Water has "invested considerable amount of funds to finding and developing membranes that are lower energy and higher productivity," he notes.

Vicevic adds that developing countries may go through a different process than much of the developed world in adopting the technology. "They've recognized that they don't have to follow the same paradigm that the rest of the world has been in developing ... technologies," he says.