Here are five reasons to start reusing wastewater.
1) Having Dependable Local Water Sources
In areas with high water demand, corporations and municipalities may need to develop their own water sources. Recycled water can be a dependable, green resource. Reusing wastewater means becoming less dependent on increasingly precious groundwater and surface water.
For example, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County have 10 water reclamation facilities that produce 165 million gallons a day of water for reuse. The district states that “clean, recycled water” is an important local resource, providing:
[A] safe, affordable, and reliable supply of water for industrial, commercial, and recreational applications; groundwater replenishment; agriculture; and the irrigation of parks, schools, golf courses, roadways, and nurseries.
For businesses in particular, water reuse can mean a sustainable closed-loop water use/treatment system. An organization can choose precisely the treatment technologies required for a given process or use. If a manufacturer needs ultrapure water for cooling, for instance, water from other processes that might previously have been sent down the drain can be treated to the quality needed. This reduces demand on freshwater supplies and can save on sewage fees.
Although wastewater can be treated to the point on being safely consumed by people, less treatment is needed if the final product isn’t for direct consumption, that is, water for irrigation or groundwater recharging, or for supporting a wetlands or wildlife habitat.
2) Water Reuse Saves Money
Industrial water reuse is driven by many factors, not the least of which is the bottom line. But, potential cost and energy savings often are not fully realized because different water uses are considered separately rather than as parts of a whole.
A cost-benefit assessment can determine the real savings by analyzing factors such as ongoing operation and maintenance costs. Other savings can result from reducing or eliminating the expense of the disposal of treated wastewater effluent. And don’t forget benefits associated with bolstering regional and local economic development.
Water reuse saves energy, too. Water is pumped, treated, and conveyed through a system of pipes to the end user. With greywater reuse and other recycling strategies, less energy is required because the water stays in place. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency:
Although it requires additional energy to treat wastewater for recycling, the amount of energy required to treat and/or transport other sources of water is generally much greater.
Water reuse examples include providing demineralized water for an industrial client’s high-pressure steam boilers, or an effective closed-loop water system for a zero-discharge facility. Treated water can also be used for recharging aquifers, that is, indirect reuse.
3) Water Scarcity and the Global Economy
Drought conditions around the world have shown the importance of water security. Manufacturers in several nations have pressed government officials to do more to ensure industry has a “future-proof” water supply.
Disruptions in water supplies can translate into productivity and job losses, as well as political instability, such as in Venezuela. Officials can find it challenging to weigh water management against other needs, such as energy, agriculture, health care, and food security.
In Taiwan, securing a stable water supply is increasingly critical for the island nation’s industrial sector. New legislation now supports water reuse. Industrial water consumers such as chip producers Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp. have adopted water reuse to stave off scarcity: TSMC currently has an 85 percent minimum water recycling rate, and UMC says it now recovers more water than it takes in, and expects that its total water recovery and reuse could reach more than 180 percent of water intake.
The state of Texas is seeking new water management strategies — including water reuse. It’s estimated that each year roughly 450,000 acre-feet of reused water could be used for irrigation in golf courses and parks, or for release in wetlands and rivers. The volume of water available for reuse should double in the next three to four decades, which means this water could be used by some 850,000 families per year, according to Michael Young, associate director for environmental systems and senior research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin.
4) Meeting Water Reuse Mandates and Sustainability Goals
Policymakers are encouraging water reuse by creating mandates, both for residential water users and businesses of all sizes.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors became the first government to require all new developments exceeding 250,000 square feet of gross floor area to use onsite water reuse systems so potable water isn’t used for tasks such as toilet flushing and irrigation. The ordinance also requires existing smaller buildings to undertake assessments for potential water reuse.
Some federal agencies are stepping in to support water reuse. In the U.S., funding from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation is helping communities by providing support “for research to establish or expand water reuse markets, improve water reuse facilities, or upgrade new facilities with state-of-the-art technology,” according to TriplePundit. Such financial assistance and incentives can help spur water reuse.
Businesses are under ever-increasing pressure to implement sustainable practices, which include finding ways to reduce water waste. Beverage manufacturers in particular are sensitive to reducing their water use, but sustainability is key across a wide swath of industries. Some organizations are adopting practices not limited to water reuse, such as efforts to move the organization to zero-net use. Others are using water-wise manufacturing processes to differentiate their products in the market.
5) It’s the Right Thing to Do
The cost of industrial or municipal water reuse is often cited as a barrier to its adoption. Although some experts balk at the cost, there are technology options available for communities and organizations of all sizes, including containerized water reuse units. These can be an important asset for municipalities with existing, aging infrastructure or manufacturers interested in exploring the benefits of recycling water.
Many of the benefits of water reuse are non-monetary, so they’re often left out of the analysis. Some of these are discussed above, but there also may be a range of social, environmental, and economic rationales for water reuse unique to a specific area. This could include adopting or amending water use and reuse policies to protect culturally sensitive areas such as bodies of water or land important to indigenous groups.
You’ll find more ideas about water reuse projects and policies, as well as the latest news, trends, and research on the world’s most precious commodity, on RWL Water’s Water Scarcity Blog.
Image Copyright: buranatrakul / 123RF Stock Photo.