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By Robert C. Brears

Water is a key component of local and national economies with the resource often a key input in a variety of industrial value chains. As industrial demand for water increases the sector needs to increase its water productivity. A failure to do so could lead to the loss or disappearance of jobs.

Majority of Jobs Dependent on Water
It is estimated that more than 1.4 billion jobs, or 42% of the world’s total active workforce, are heavily water-dependent while another 1.2 billion jobs or 36% of the world’s total active workforce are moderately water dependent. In total, 78% of jobs in the global workforce is dependent on water.

Water-Dependent Industries
Half of the global workforce is employed in eight water and natural resource-dependent industries including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, manufacturing, recycling, building, and transport. Currently, industry and manufacturing account for around 4% of global water withdrawals. By 2050, it is projected that manufacturing alone could increase its water use by 400%.

Meeting Rising Demand with Non-Conventional Supply
To ensure industry has access to adequate supplies of good quality water and maintains productivity, utilities have been researching and developing ‘non-conventional’ sources for large-scale customers. Examples of which are as follows.

Research on Industrial Wastewater Reuse
Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) has been conducting research on recycling and reuse of industrial wastewater. Industrial wastewater is a by-product of manufacturing processes at industrial or commercial premises. With suitable treatment, industrial wastewater can be recycled and reused as the boiler or cooling tower feed water in addition to irrigation and toilet flushing. PUB has also been conducting research on Low- Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD), a desalination process that utilizes low-grade industrial waste heat to produce high-quality freshwater. This requires minimal electricity demand as waste heat can come from various sources including power plants, refinery plants, and waste incineration plants, etc.

Tailored Industrial Water in Flanders
In Flanders, De Watergroep provides tailored industrial water for industry and service business customers. The water utility’s “Industry and Services Business Unit” charts the company’s internal water streams, analyses sources of available water, including groundwater, surface water as well as wastewater or reusable process water, and seeks ways of optimizing water consumption. The quality of water supplied depends on the customer’s requirements, for example, whether they require cooling water or demineralized water etc. The Business Unit usually carries out its industrial water projects according to the concept of Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO) contracts. The Business Unit has also developed a mobile pilot installation and drilling team unit for business customers to see how the utility can match desired water quality with available water resources. The pilot system uses various techniques including ultrafiltration and reverse-osmosis on a small-scale, enabling customers to make decisions on investments and the techniques to be used.

Customized Process Water in the Netherlands
Evides, a water utility that provides drinking water to 2.5 million consumers and businesses in three Dutch provinces of Zeeland, the south-western part of Zuid-Holland, and the south-western part of Noord-Brabant, offers industrial water, or ‘process water’ that is customized for specific requirements and preferences of each customer. In 2017 alone, the utility provided 96.9 million cubic meters of industrial water and 158.7 million cubic meters of drinking water through more than 14,000 kilometers of the pipeline network. Evides Industriewater focuses on providing process water to the chemical industry, petrochemicals, and food industry with an overall emphasis on tailoring water to the needs of customers. The utility delivers different process water based on a Design, Build, Finance, and Operate contract, which involves Evides Industriewater, on behalf of its customers, purifying water and reusing water. Some of the main industrial water products Evides Industriewater offers to customers includes agricultural and irrigation water, cooling water, industrial water, and demineralized water. Demand has now resulted in Evides Industriewater providing solutions to 75 installations, including 12 DBFO plants as well as mobile installations in the Benelux and Germany.

Fit for Purpose Recycled Water
Queensland Urban Utilities supports the sustainable use of recycled water across its service territory with numerous environmental benefits including conservation of water resources, reduced nutrient loads being released into waterways, improved quality of public assets e.g. sporting field surfaces, and support of agriculture where environmental sources of water are insufficient. A key aspect of the utility’s recycled water program is that recycled water must be fit for purpose. Specifically, Queensland Urban Utilities provides various qualities, or classes, of recycled water treated to meet the customers’ requirements from each recycled water schemes, with the price decreasing with quality. The classes are Class A+ recycled water, which is very highly treated recycled water and is usually only required for industrial process water or for the irrigation of minimally processed food crops), Class A and B recycled water, which is recycled water that requires additional treatment processes above the normal sewage treatment processes that are sufficient to allow effluent to be discharged into the environment, and Class C recycled water, which is the lowest quality of recycled water supplied by the utility.

Malta’s New Water
Malta’s Water Services Commission has established the New Water program, which involves treated wastewater going through ultrafiltration to remove bacteria, reverse osmosis to remove chemicals, and advanced oxidation to remove remaining pollutants. Each year the program produces 7 million m3 of high-quality water suitable for safe crop irrigation. This will potentially meet up to 35% of the current total demand of the agricultural sector. In addition, the high-quality water can be used for landscaping and industry, ensuring New Water is fully utilized during periods of low demand by the agricultural sector. Currently, New Water is available through hydrants, which are accessed by electronic cards. As of 2018, seven hydrants are available in the North region of Malta. Moving forward, the program is developing three additional networks to increase the number of hydrants available for water users.

Robert Brears is the author of Urban Water Security, Founder of Mitidaption, and Our Future Water.

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