U.S. Water News Online
HONOLULU -- Japan's thirst for desalinated, bottled
Hawaiian deep seawater is driving a booming industry on the Big
Island, with sales reaching nearly $17 million last year.
Demand for the water that sells for up to $6 a bottle is
increasing, making it one of the state's hottest exports, according
to state export statistics.
The water is pumped to the surface via a pipeline that dips 3,000
feet deep in waters near the National Energy Laboratory on the Big
Island's Kona Coast.
While most of the water is bottled and exported to Japan by
companies that pay the state to certify the water as authentic,
bottlers are trying to develop a local and mainland U.S. market.
The water is mainly marketed in Japan as being exceptionally pure,
with possible health benefits. The salt is removed through reverse
osmosis and electrolysis.
Five years ago, exports of the water totaled just over $360,000.
Last year, the Foreign Trade Zone Division of the state Department of
Business, Economic Development and Tourism recorded $16.8 million in
deep seawater exports.
Ron Baird, head of the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii
Authority, a state agency set up to research ocean thermal energy
conversion, says the business still appears to be in its infancy.
"It looks like this could be something that could go on for some
time," he said.
The drinking water operation is a byproduct of the pipeline used
to cool buildings at the lab and produce energy using cold water from
the depths of the ocean.
Baird predicted more than $100 million in investments over the
next year or so by companies engaged in the bottling operations.
The largest bottler of deep seawater in Hawaii, Koyo USA Corp., is
building a third plant at the energy laboratory, increasing its daily
capacity from 250,000 to 1 million bottles a day, according to
Hiroshi Usami, Koyo's general manager.
Three other companies also are getting into the business this
year, and others will be setting up operations later, officials said.
One company has announced plans to set up its own operation offshore
from Oahu, pumping deep seawater into a boat for bottling at plants
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