Reducing Industrial Water Footprint Lightens Energy Footprint, Too By Jim Lauria
The close connection between the water footprint of an industrial facility, which describes its overall consumption and efficiency of its water use, and its carbon footprint - much of which reflects the energy used to move, heat, cool or treat water - has never been more apparent. And as clean freshwater becomes increasingly scarce and energy becomes more expensive, reducing the water footprint has never been more critical.
Water stewardship is now viewed in terms of the lifecycle of industrial water and the systems that handle it. Delivering clean water with clean technology covers a wide range of attributes, including:
- Minimizing pumping and pressurization costs;
- Reducing footprint - in size, weight and materials;
- Eliminating water treatment chemicals;
- Using a bare minimum of backwash water.
Each of those elements links closely to environmental sustainability, which in turn contribute to economic sustainability.
According to the Pacific Institute’s “At the Crest of a Wave: A Proactive Approach to Corporate Water Strategy,” major companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Intel already have found themselves embroiled in fights over facilities in water- stressed areas, from Kerala, India, to New Mexico. In short, the low-cost-labor advantages of China, India or other markets could soon be eclipsed by water scarcity or quality problems. There are other challenges, too. As water supplies are stressed, pricing volatility increases and becomes more closely linked with unpredictable forces such as the weather. The cost of energy to move and manage water also is climbing to new, dizzying heights. Finally, growing regulation and increasing need for water efficiency add management cost - in time and expertise - to production. Competition is fierce in other ways as well. Industrial water users are vying for the same water being tapped by irrigators and consumers, which can lead to political and PR battles.
Pollution on the Rise
Water pollution is increasing in many areas, which is ironic because industry is faced with ever-increasing demands for cleaner water across all major categories of industrial water:
- Makeup or ingredient water, which must be extremely clean to ensure the desired product taste and characteristics, as well as to minimize the chance of waterborne contaminants or pathogens in the product.
- Process water or produced water, which must be cleaned after coming into contact with the product in order to be effectively recycled or discharged.
- Service water such as cooling, heating, cleaning, rinsing or sealing water, which also must be cleaned thoroughly before reuse or discharge.
The bottom line is that water-savvy products are becoming increasingly important in providing a competitive advantage in a range of industries. Three brief case studies illustrate how clean water can be delivered with clean technology in all of the categories of industrial water.
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