Island nations benefit from 'water as a service'

Seven Seas Water, with $100 million in financing from the likes of the Virgin Green Fund, is tackling the challenge of making water desalination more efficient and sustainable.


The drought situation in the United States has plenty of people wondering about water technologies and more effective water strategies. Not to make light of the situation, which is hopefully a temporary weather pattern, but try to imagine what it would be like like in a place that is surrounding by water but has a very limited drinking supply.

Such is the problem targeted by innovative containerized desalination technology from Seven Seas Water that was first deployed in the Virgin Islands but has since been deployed into other markets through the Caribbean and the Americas. The company's is one of the fastest growing private companies addressing the troublesome problem of how to convert seawater to freshwater -- in the most energy-efficient manner possible.

I found Seven Seas Water interesting even before I found out that it is one of the operation's funded by entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Green Fund. In fact, that is just one of the company's investors: so far it has raised about $100 million in financing.

Seven Seas Water sells mobile seawater reverse osmosis technology, which runs much more efficiently than traditional thermal desalination plants. Because they are deployed in containers, they can be installed quickly -- which is one reason that emergency response is a big target market, said Seven Seas Water CEO Doug Brown, when I interviewed him this spring.

It normally takes about a year to get a traditional desalination plant up and running, but the six-unit installation that is used by the Virgin Island Water and Power Authority on St. Croix was installed in just 92 days. They produce 1.5 million gallons per day of potable water.

You can't buy the Seven Seas Water technology. That's because the company Water sells its technology as a service, like the leasing and power purchase agreement model that has now become very commonplace for solar technology.

"Our price to the customer cuts their water cost in half," Brown said.

So far, the Seven Seas Water has operating plants in the Bahamas, Curacao, St. Martin, Trinidad & Tobago, the Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But the company may soon find itself in places such as Chile, which is considering the technology for mining operations (water must be purified before it is used for this purpose), Brown said. 

(Image courtesy of Seven Seas Water)

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