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Setting Water Reduction Targets: Reducing water consumption reduces wastewater generation while also reducing risk

Posted: July 18th, 2023

Authors: Colleen N. 

A careful assessment of water use can reveal consumption risks and resource use inefficiencies. Setting water reduction goals creates a quantitative way to validate the efficacy of efficiency improvements, expose potential failures and malfunctions and drive inefficiency and risk from the system. Customers, investors and other stakeholders are interested in knowing their exposure to water-related organizational risks and societal impacts as a result of investing in or partnering with a company. Especially when processes or products are highly water dependent, located in water stressed areas, or subject to existing or pending water access restrictions or cost increases. Below are a few ways water use can be mitigated.

In the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Guide for Industrial Waste Management and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Compliance Inspection Manual, the U.S. EPA discusses several options that can help reduce wastewater amounts through source reduction.

  1. Reformulation/redesign of products, such as substituting raw materials that might require less water usage.
  2. Technological modifications such as modifying the equipment and process used during production. Modifications can help reduce the amount of raw material that is needed during production along with the amount of time needed in between maintenance of the equipment through the use of mechanical cleaning devices. Replacing components of the equipment with high-pressure, low volume hoses and nozzles can help reduce water usage during the cleaning process.
  1. In process recycling/reuse of water can help cut down on the overall amount of wastewater produced during the process, from the cleaning of equipment and general facility use.
  1. Good housekeeping/operating procedures, such as regularly scheduled maintenance of equipment and routine plant inspections can help avoid spills and identify where materials can be used more effectively, resulting in reduced material usage.

U.S. EPA also provides a list of water management techniques that can be implemented to help track water usage and minimize the amount of wastewater produced at a facility.

Water Management Techniques

  1. Meter/Measure/Manage
    1. Using a meter to measure the water usage can help save on water usage amounts, and also give an idea of how much water the facility is using in each step of the process. Once a management practice is put into place the data can be used to track usage over time and show where improvements to the process have been made.
  2. Optimize cooling tower blowdown water and other sources of water such as boilers.
    1. Applicable to laboratories and large consumers of water.
    2. Condensate from air conditioners can also be used as part of the cooling tower process.
    3. Condensate from boilers can be recirculated back to the boiler through the installation of pipes and pumps.
  3. Replace restroom fixtures, such as new toilets and faucet aerators.
  4. Eliminate single-pass cooling and instead opt for recirculating water systems.
  5. Use water-smart landscaping and irrigation, such as planting native vegetation and using soil moisture sensors to dictate when water irrigation is needed. Recovered rainwater can also be used to reduce the amount of water used in irrigation through the use of a storage tank that accumulates the rainwater.
  6. Control steam sterilizer tempering water to not discharge at a continuous flow by replacing older models with updated versions to only have tempering water when necessary, helping to save on costs and water consumption.

Where to Start?

Consider setting a goal that is specific, relevant, measurable, attainable, and time based to your operations. Setting a specific goal that is relevant to your operations can give a clear direction on where improvements can be made and the motivation behind the goal, such as wastewater treatment system upgrades, societal influences, or upgrades needed to meet future demands. When goals are measurable and attainable, evaluating progress and working towards a goal is achievable and sets a clear timeline of when the goal is met by setting a deadline.

For example, setting a goal to reduce water consumption does not set a clear goal of what is expected or when it will be achieved. However, specifying a goal of reducing water usage and discharge by 20% in 12 months gives a clearer objective that has a set timeline. Data collection of water usage and water discharged are two areas where water consumption trends can be used to measure progress in improvements and identify trends over time for when water usage is greater during a certain time of year. Identifying major points of usage and discharge along with analytical sampling of wastewater discharge can also help pinpoint areas that can be improved upon to see how increased or decreased usage affects water quality which is necessary to meet current and future permit regulations.

ALL4 can assist you with tracking water usage/consumption trends, along with assisting clients to meet permit regulations and stay up to date on upcoming regulations. ALL4 can develop and execute a net zero or net positive water strategy; and disclose that strategy through platforms such as CDP or bespoke communications. Please contact Colleen Nagel at cnagel@all4inc.com or Connie Prostko-Bell at cprostko-bell@all4inc.com for more information or support with your project.


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