The importance of water sustainability
In the honor of World Water Week, we’ll be giving an inside look at our global initiative for consciously using water and how it’s addressing today’s greatest challenges and how companies can contribute to reduce water consumption.
Water supply around the globe is facing significant challenges. How can we rise to the occasion to guarantee that our services are not only water-positive, but also contribute to the fight against climate change?
That is, we make sure our services are helping our clients in conserving water while also doing our bit to help the environment.
What is World Water Day?
World Water Day is held annually on 22 March. It was created to globally bring focus onto the importance of freshwater and proposing means of sustainable management of freshwater resources. The focus of this day will also be working towards the goals in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6, which is water and sanitation for all by 2030.
According to the UN-Water, only 74% of the global population had access to safely managed drinking water and 54% of the global population had safely managed sanitation services in 2020. Considering the rapid growth in population, it is estimated that the global population will reach 8.6 billion in 2030. It is expected that by 2030, only 81% of the global population will have safe access to drinking water at home resulting in 1.6 billion without and only 67% will have safe sanitation services leaving 1.9 billion without. This emphasises the strong need for the general public and industries to make a concerted effort to meet the 2030 goal.
Water consumption municipally versus industrially
Municipal water use is defined as water used for domestic, household, or public use. This includes water used for drinking, cleaning, washing, cooking and sanitation. Despite municipal water usage being the most “visible” consumption of water, it is relatively low in comparison to industrial or agricultural use. Globally, only 11% of freshwater withdrawals are required for municipal purposes.
Industrially, water is used in a multitude of applications, for example, steam generation, heating, and cooling, washing, water make-up, dilution, etc. Globally, approximately 17% of total water withdrawals are used industrially. Countries with a higher income have a higher industrial water usage than low-income countries. Whereas, agriculturally, low-income countries have a higher water consumption than high income countries.
How can process industries help reduce freshwater consumption?
There are many ways that companies can contribute to reduce water consumption. These are as follows:
- Perform a process audit- Engineers and managers can assess and audit the plant to identify where majority of the water is used, areas that water is wasted and how to alleviate these issues. Companies should install instruments to quantify water usage and ensure that waste is minimised.
- Implement water efficient equipment- Companies can install low flow nozzles on taps or investigate implementing a closed water loop system in the process for example in cooling towers and boilers, heat exchangers and condensers.
- Recycle wastewater, capture rainwater for non-potable systems and use grey water for irrigation. Recycled wastewater can be used in the process if treated properly or used in other areas of the plant for example in non-potable systems.
- Implement water saving processes- this could be using dry processes instead of wet processes, optimization of water usage in equipment, regular maintenance of running equipment, etc.
- Educate employees on water saving in the workplace! It is important for employees to understand the global importance of water and make an effort to reduce the consumption of water.
According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, approximately 2 million tons of waste is released into natural water bodies per day. This waste is in the form of but not limited to industrial wastes, dyes and chemicals, human waste, and agricultural wastes, i.e., fertilisers and pesticides. This indicates that there is a major opportunity to save water by treatment and reuse of wastewater.
Technology that is typically used in waste water treatment facilities include:
- Adsorption/Absorption- This is the removal of surface contaminants in wastewater via absorbent material where the contaminants are trapped inside the absorbent filter. Activated carbon is the most common filter material used but is disadvantageous in large-scale use due to cost of chemical regeneration.
- Membrane filtration- Membrane filtration is used at a super fine level to remove particulates and molecules. Membrane filtration is easily implemented but is limited as it can be difficult to remove fine dissolved solids.
- Reverse osmosis (RO)- Reverse osmosis is a semi-permeable membrane that separates molecules. RO is one of the most efficient methods used in water treatment currently but can be expensive due to high pressure pumps required for operation.
- Biological treatment- This is wastewater treatment using microorganisms (biological bugs) to break down organic wastes dissolved in wastewater. This method performs well to reduce COD however, purity of treated water is not high enough to be reused in the process.
- Evaporation- Evaporation of water using an external heat source to purify the water. This method produces high quality water but would be expensive due to cost of heat energy.
Blue Projects contribution to water saving
At Blue Projects, we believe that water should be developed, conserved, and controlled in a sustainable and efficient manner for the benefit of our environment. Our engineers work to implement the best designs for water saving and manage wastewater production. Blue Projects also looks at the best cost and most efficient technology used to aid us in this initiative.
What can the public do
The public can also aid in reduction of consumption of freshwater by managing the water used for cleaning and washing. Examples of these are:
- install water saving shower heads and take shorter showers,
- turn off water in between brushing your teeth or washing your face,
- limit use of dishwashers or washing machines,
- turn off technology because power generation is water intensive,
- shop sustainably- a pair of jeans typically uses 10000 litres to produce which is equal to what a person drinks in 10 years,
- avoid dumping medicines, chemicals, oils own the drain,
- avoid wasting food to limit agricultural demand, etc.