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Optimising water consumption: The next challenge

The focus on delivering an environmentally sustainable future tends to be framed as a conversation around energy and carbon; but what of that most precious of resources, water?

14th December 2020

The UK’s Climate Change Committee has predicted significant water deficits by 2050. Therefore, is water going to be the next resource challenge facing many UK businesses?

At a national scale, England, Scotland and Wales are projected to be in deficit by 800 million to 3 billion litres per day by 2050 (5–16% of total demand) and by 1.4 billion to 5 billion litres per day by 2080 (8-29% of the total demand)

Despite their reputation for rain; the north-west of England and the Yorkshire and Humber region are projected to be highly susceptible to supply-demand deficits, as well as London and the south-east. However, deficits are projected in other parts of the UK as well, including areas of south Wales and the central belt of Scotland.

In this context, developing a better water optimisation strategy is plainly the right thing to do. But as with any commodity if supply/demand balances tighten then we are likely to see higher prices over time. So, what should organisations do both to improve their green credentials but also mitigate rising costs?

The optimisation opportunity

Optimisation of water use across industrial sectors can play an important role in lowering water withdrawals from local water sources and in increasing both water availability and productivity per water input. We find that there are often significant opportunities to also lower wastewater discharges and their associated pollutant load. This can have the added benefit of reducing thermal energy consumption, processing costs and your carbon footprint.

The first step to an effective water reduction strategy?

The first step in any water reduction plan is to assess your current water usage – as with many journeys; it’s difficult to chart the right path if you don’t understand where you are starting from. When the consumption data has been collected this will allow engineers to provide analysis and feedback for inconsistencies. Further investigation into water irregularities can be conducted with site surveys and audits. Once these have been completed a robust water reduction strategy can be put in place.

Changing User Behaviour

The challenge of achieving behavioural change can be in shaping a message that seems relevant to end-users. But shaping messaging that seem personally relevant to staff and where they see the benefit of changed behaviour can be important in promoting a water conscious environment. In our experience successful water awareness behavioural training can result in a reduction of water use from anywhere between 2% and 5%.

Water Monitoring & Process Change

The initial data dive can establish a clear water consumption baseline. This means that whenever water consumption rises above the base level, the presence of some form of water leak or irregularity is likely. To locate leaks submeter data analysis can be examined remotely to identify any increased usage that cannot be associated with increased production activities. We do find that it is still important to ensure that regular site visits and audits are undertaken to inspect equipment or areas where leaks could occur, like pipe-work joints, connections and fittings. The repair and optimisation of equipment and drainage can result in a potential water consumption reduction of 4% to 7%.

Technology Changes

There are also several technologies whose adoption can deliver significant water savings. One effective approach is to adopt a greywater treatment system that can treat process water to allow internal reuse. Instead of assuming that all processes require drinking-quality water, investigate actual water quality needed for internal processes and reuse water within the business or between businesses whenever possible. For example, a polishing machine may require water with a certain particulate level. If a settling tank and greywater treatment was installed, the polishing machine could technically reuse its own water an infinite number of times. We find that taking a fresh look at opportunities to adopt new technologies can result in a further  8% to 15% reduction in water consumption.

A holistic approach

So, looking afresh at opportunities across people, processes and technology can identify significant consumption reduction opportunities. But we find that it’s also important to take a broader view across water procurement and effective invoice validation. Having access to accurate consumption and billing data can unlock a rich stream of data that enables our solutions engineers to readily identify consumption inconsistencies, undertake site surveys and audits; and work with our supply partners to propose and implement steps to reduce water usage.

We are confident that our team can therefore help you to ensure price accuracy, reduce consumption, minimise overall cost and improve your environmental sustainability credentials.

If you would like to discuss some of the points or are interested in streamlining your water strategy get in touch on 01252 785294 or email: enquiries@inenco.com

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