CH2M Hill reports to USEPA on industrial water use

Water reuse is one of a number of trends for water usage in American industry identified in a report just published by engineering company CH2M Hill for the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

The paper, The Importance of Water to the US Economy, focuses on identifying the water challenges faced by selected industrial sectors, and showcases some of the approaches that are being taken to address them.

Says the report, “There is every indication that with water being squeezed from both ends – climate change altering supply and population growth increasing demand – water issues will continue to increase.”

CH2M Hill examined the critical role water plays in industrial production and the US economy, and how the value of water is changing in five industrial sectors: semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil and gas. Case studies on how Intel, Rio Tinto, Dow Chemical, Chesapeake Energy and Southern Company engage in water policy decisions, assess and report on water use, and are improving water process efficiency to derive the maximum value from the water they use are included in the report.

Although water’s influence on corporate decisions and the use of water varies across sectors, the authors say the industries examined face some common challeng es and opportunities in managing water resources and ensuring the availability of water for their operations:

  • Increasing competition for water
  • Increasing awareness of water usage (measurement and reporting)
  • Potential for business disruption because of changes in volume or quality of water
  • Efforts to increase water efficiency and to plan for contingencies (developing engineering or economic solutions, including investing in public or private infrastructure, depending on such factors as cost and availability of water resources and rights)
  • Innovation (technological, financial, and collaboration via partnerships).
  • Industries are adopting best practices to maximize their position with regard to water resources, including implementing measures such as water reduction in the process, energy reduction in operations (addressing the “water cost of energy”), enhanced monitoring and automated control of water reuse, increased vigilance and control of indirect water consumption, “fitness-for-use,” and water reuse.

    For instance, Intel is spending more than US$ 200 million on public infrastructure, including water and wastewater facilities, at its operations in Ocotillo, Arizona, and has partnered with the nearby City of Chandler to implement water usage technologies that benefit both the company and the local community. Today Intel uses 1.25‑1.5 gallons (4.7‑5.7 litres) of water to make 1 gal (3.8 L) of ultrapure water, needed to remove the impurities that can short out the hundreds of circuits in each chip, down from almost 2 gal (7.6 L) in the recent past.

    Dow Chemical Company has also made the connection between climate change and water risk and has developed a number of water management strategies, including implementing advanced water-cooling technology in 2010, which is saving 1 billion gallons (3.8 million m³) of water and US$ 4 million annually. Dow is also reducing fresh water use by partnering with a neighboring wastewater utility in Freeport, Texas, to utilize municipal effluent for operations, and is developing a reservoir to create a more reliable water supply for both the company and local residents.

    The report was developed for the EPA as part of its initiative titled The Importance of Water to the United States Economy.