Historically, water has been widely available for industrial use at a low cost. But that’s changing. As global demand increases, so, too, has the looming issue of water scarcity. Whether spurred by rising costs, consumer demand for environmental responsibility, or by increasingly restrictive water use limits and regulations, many industrial facilities are beginning to adopt strategies to reduce water consumption and cut both short- and long-term costs.
If you’ve ever wondered “Can my facility save money by reducing its water consumption?” then read on. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways that water usage affects operational costs and some considerations for industrial facilities looking at water conservation as a means of saving money.
Cost benefits of water conservation
Water usage impacts an industrial facility’s bottom line in several direct and indirect ways. The costs of water usage at a plant may depend on a number of factors, such as where a facility draws its water from, how water is used in industrial manufacturing and cleaning processes, what equipment is used, and how water is discharged, among others. Below, we’ve outlined some of the key areas where reducing water use can result in cost savings for an industrial facility. These include:
The most direct way in which water conservation strategies reduce costs is by cutting the total volume of water that a facility must draw in order to support production. Cost savings can be substantial for facilities that are located in a regions where water costs are high, where permitted withdrawal limits are stringent, or for those facilities who pay for water from a metered source, such as municipal tap water.
Less direct, but still important, are the peripheral costs of bringing source water into a facility. By reducing water usage, facilities can also cut energy and maintenance costs of pumps and other equipment used to bring water into the plant.
Effluent treatment and discharge costs
Waste streams generated by industrial facilities are discharged to various waterways, including deep wells, rivers, streams, sewers, and publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), among others. No matter the destination, the discharging facility must treat its waste streams to comply with relevant discharge standards and regulations. Treating effluent streams can entail a variety of costs to power and maintain the equipment and peripherals needed to pump, treat, cool, and transport effluent streams as needed. By reducing the total volume of liquid waste generated by a facility, water conservation strategies help to cut costs associated with the energy, chemicals, and equipment needed to treat effluent streams, as well as helping facilities to minimize discharge and disposal costs by staying within permitted allowances.
Water storage costs
Storing water can be costly in terms of the footprint needed for storage vessels as well as the time and materials needed to maintain them. Increasing water efficiency at an industrial facility can lessen the overall demand for water. As a result, water conservation strategies cut costs by allowing facilities to use affordable, lower capacity storage vessels, and by consuming less energy, since smaller volumes of water will need to be pumped to and from the storage vessels. In some cases, facilities also find added value in the ability to reclaim valuable square footage as well.
Some water conservation technologies allow industrial facilities to not only make more efficient use of water, but of raw materials as well. Zero liquid discharge (ZLD) and other water conservation technologies often have the added benefit of increasing production yields and/or reclaiming water and other materials for other uses, while reducing wastes present in effluent streams. As a result, facilities can save money by achieving higher product yields, reducing wastage of raw materials or ingredients, simplifying effluent treatment, and/or reducing total discharge volumes.
Planning for realistic cost savings
Water conservation strategies typically deliver a net cost benefit, if not right away, then usually within the first year or two. Some changes may be small, such as finding and fixing leaks in pipes and equipment and installing flow restrictors. Other changes may require moderate effort or cost, such as replacing or upgrading certain equipment. Involved water conservation strategies, such as installing wastewater treatment systems to reclaim and reuse process water, can involve high upfront costs, but may well deliver an excellent return on investment.
Nonetheless, technologies and processes used to reduce water consumption can vary significantly in terms of the energy and resources needed to run them. Poorly planned or executed water conservation solutions can require so much additional energy that any economic and environmental gains are effectively canceled out. All the same, water conservation efforts can still be worthwhile, especially if a facility is located in a region that faces a high risk of water scarcity challenges in future years.
The highest cost benefits come from effective planning. Auditing your facility’s water use is an important first step in improving the efficiency of water use, and in seizing on available economic benefits. Water use audits are best performed by a professional who is qualified to conduct a survey to accurately measure water consumption, though some companies have seen success in appointing internal teams to measure water consumption. The goal of an audit is to quantify water consumption so that a facility can set clear and attainable goals and track progress later.
Data gathered during an audit is then used to benchmark against water use data for other facilities in the same (or similar) industrial sector. Doing so can to identify opportunities for reducing water usage and uncover the best opportunities to target resources for the greatest return on investment. Common areas for the greatest cost savings opportunities include cooling towers, as well as washing and rinsing lines.
How can SAMCO help?
SAMCO has over 40 years’ experience custom-designing and manufacturing efficient water treatment systems for a range of industries and applications, so please feel free to reach out to us with your questions.
For more information or to get in touch, contact us here to set up a consultation with an engineer or request a quote. We can walk you through options for industrial water conservation solutions that fit your needs and maximize your return on investment.
Head on over to our blog to learn more about available water treatment technologies to help reduce industrial water consumption and prepare for water shortages. Some articles that might be of specific interest to you include: