Sunday, June 16, 2024

How Sustainability Initiatives in the Industrial Sector Can Reduce Water Scarcity


Water scarcity affects many communities around the world, and many more will struggle with it as the climate crisis continues. Sustainability initiatives in the industrial sector can help.

While households are routinely advised to conserve water, the industrial sector also needs to prioritize water sustainability solutions as the sector accounts for 19 percent of the total global water withdrawals, according to a recent UNESCO report. 

Many industries, including manufacturing, energy, construction, and more, heavily rely on groundwater to sustain their daily operations. The problem is, that while water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, only three percent of the water is fresh.

What’s more, most of this freshwater is locked up in polar ice caps, glaciers, and other inaccessible areas. The water that every household and every industrial, agricultural, and commercial entity shares across the world is just 0.62 percent of the total water on Earth. And much of that face challenges such as pollution and decreasing water levels as the planet heats up.

glass of water
Courtesy Giorgio Trovato | Unsplash

While the numbers look bleak, initiatives from different sectors can help the global population prepare and alleviate water scarcity. Many players in the industrial sector, in particular, are keen on developing strategies and solutions to ensure that the tap won’t run dry soon.

Sustainable water initiatives

Here are just a few examples of the water industry’s efforts aimed at contributing to water sustainability.

Water desalination

Currently, only one percent of the world’s drinking water is extracted from desalination methods. But efforts are increasing.

Courtesy Motoki Tonn | Unsplash

In an archipelagic domain like the Philippines, water desalination technology could be a game changer for many industries. Infrastructure developer Aboitiz InfraCapital is betting big on water desalination technology in partnership with Singapore-based Keppel Infrastructure.

The joint venture aims to produce 30 million liters of desalinated water per day to boost Cebu City’s bulk water supply. This will help ensure the city’s water security for the foreseeable future.

Water-energy nexus

Sustainability in terms of water and energy are addressed with the water-energy nexus solutions such as the Apo Agua Infrastructura project initiated by Aboitiz InfraCapital in Davao City. This innovative idea combines water and energy in a symbiotic infrastructure where water powers energy and energy powers the water component of the system. 

This important water infrastructure project aims to provide an alternate source of potable water for the city and its industries by tapping the Tamugan River. The river water runs a 2- megawatt hydroelectric power plant to power a water treatment facility that ensures the water is safe for consumption. This symbiotic process results in less energy consumption with minimal water loss.

The water-energy nexus concept is already being leveraged in countries like the US, Japan, Canada, and some European countries. 

Waste-water treatment

Industrial wastewater is the byproduct of different processes of industries such as food and beverage processing, mining, oil refining, and more. To comply with environmental regulations, industrial establishments have to implement wastewater treatment processes before the wastewater can be allowed to flow back into rivers and streams. This prevents contamination of the groundwater that could wreak havoc on a community’s water supply.

boat on river
Fresh water is at risk from climate change Photo: Getty Images

Aside from compliance, businesses benefit from technologies that clean and reuse wastewater by way of reducing the costs of water consumption. With the help of an efficient water recycling system, reuse of greywater is made possible for many non-drinking applications.

The end-to-end water services implemented in some industrial parks is a model system for water conservation that can be adopted in many of the world’s economic zones. In Aboitiz InfraCapital’s Lima Technology Center in Malvar, Batangas, for example, the Lima Water Corporation provides a comprehensive water management solution for the multinational locators operating in the park. With the help of water treatment technologies, LWC is able to produce 10.5 MLD of clean water and to treat 26 MLD of wastewater per day.

Integrated industrial water management

As water is basic to human survival, the need to protect it is unquestionable, hence the principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM) were introduced by the United Nations in the late ‘70s. These principles that govern every IWRM initiative are as follows:

  • Efficient use of water resources
  • Equitable access to water sources
  • Balanced use of water among different sectors
  • Application of eco-friendly water technologies
  • Collaboration between government and stakeholders

In the industrial sector, water is one of the core resources used by many organizations. Many water-intensive facilities serve the fields of chemical processing, metals manufacturing, food and beverage processing, and more. 

The water efficiency crisis is here to stay. Courtesy Photoholgic | Unsplash

Industries recognize the need to develop solutions to conserve and maximize water resources. That’s why integrated industrial water resources management systems were developed, such as the INPIREWATER project that’s funded by the European Union (EU). The project aims to provide water treatment solutions through eco-friendly technologies as part of corporate sustainability strategies in the region.

The issue of water sustainability affects everyone, no matter which sector of society one belongs to. That said, the industrial sector’s contribution to water sustainability efforts is vital to ensuring that such endeavors will gain traction on a global scale and will result in actual positive changes.  With the initiatives and strategies adopted by players within the industrial sector, water scarcity can be alleviated in many parts of the world. 

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