The Importance of a Good Water Management Program

By Alexandre Pellerin
November 2005

The Author is the president and founder of Espéranto Environnement in Terrebonne, Quebec. He has a background in chemical engineering, from the University of Trois-Rivières, and a specialty in Membrane Technology. His knowledge and experience allows him to apply this technology in different applications in the treatment and handling of waste water in industrial settings.

This article gives an overview of the problematic concerning water in industry. Basic principles are discussed to implement sustainable solutions in the current economical situation.

The current environmental situation creates a tendency to close water networks in industry. One must take this reality into consideration in the coming years as the costs of using water will increase and thus, one must be prepared for this eventuality for environmental and economical reasons. In fact, it is advantageous to implement a follow-up program in order to reduce the consumption of fresh water by treating and redistributing, when possible, part of or the totality of the required capacities for production.

In areas where water became a costly commodity, many industrial plants were successful in closing their water network as the purchase and installation of water treatment systems became cost effective. Even if technology allows us to treat any type of contaminated effluent, the economics of such a project will remain the deciding factor.

In Quebec, many enterprises use water in their process, little are the companies who recycle it.

The water treatment industry is large and complex. However, for a company wishing to reduce their water consumption, it would be more cost-efficient to implement an in-house water management program.

Such a program would be useful for enterprises that satisfy one or many of the following criteria:

  1. Consumes water originating for the municipal water network;
  2. Their daily consumptions is greater than 10 m³/day;
  3. Disposes water with lower quality that the quality of the water supplied;
  4. Wishes to lower their costs associated to using water;
  5. Wishes to have a technological edge in industrial processes
  6. Wishes to have an environmental friendly manufacturing plant.

The management of water can be separated in 3 sections:

  1. Water supply
  2. Process water
  3. Wastewater

A study of the water circuits will evaluate all three aforementioned sections separately and together in order to optimise the use of water depending on the type of production involved. Any enterprise who wishes to reduce their water consumption should perform such a study internally or by an external firm. Before considering investing in a water treatment system, it is necessary and strongly recommended to analyse the possibilities of segregating and reusing water.

There is a limit to the reutilisation of water due to the contamination that will occur during the recycling process. This will lead to the investigation of proper water treatment systems for your process. For example, water contaminated with metals can be treated by chemical precipitation, through ion exchange filters or by reverse osmosis. These processes do not offer the same water quality or the same stability and each investment is different. The study becomes of interest as it will determine the best cost-efficient solution for a particular industrial plant.

The study should yield the following information:

  1. Information of flow rates, volumes, temperature and periods of usage.
  2. Types of contaminants and their concentrations.
  3. The quality of water required at each step in the process.
  4. The possibilities to segregate different water lines.
  5. A list of solutions to the recirculation of water designed for the industrial plant in question.
  6. A list of technologies available that will allow to the reach the different types of water required discussed in point 3.
  7. A list of water treatment systems with an acceptable efficiency.
  8. A step-by-step implementation program for the proposed solutions.

Following the study, the company has all the necessary information in order to optimise their water consumption and costs involved.

This type of project should be evaluated as any investment project that will help reduce production costs.

Whether you are operating in the textile, metallurgical, petrochemical or food and beverage industry, the principles remain the same. Only the water treatment systems will differ.

There is a good possibility that the costs will increase in the coming years, therefore, such an investment should be considered as a long term investment.


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