Adequate quantity and quality of water supply for a variety of users is at the core of sustainable development. However, water use has tripled since 1950 and demand is growing rapidly.It is estimated that 80% of the used water is discharged back to the natural environment without any treatment, which reduces the potential for the water it is polluting to be used effectively.
‘Wastewater’, better rephrased as ‘used water’, is recognized as a resource that can contribute to filling the supply gap. Meeting future needs will be driven by efficiency enhancement and waste minimization. Water reuse is seen as a step towards the solution, with beneficial effects on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions control.
For industrial companies, water presents an operational challenge and a cost item, as well as an opportunity for growth. As the availability of water as a resource is localized and can be limited, this is particularly true in arid regions where water is scarce and the environment is sensitive to industrial discharges. Attention is increasingly paid to opportunities for industrial water users to conserve, reuse and share water. Incentives are straightforward: minimizing water use can bring economic savings in production costs and reduce dependency on water resource supply.
Many industries are faced with restrictions on their water usage and/or on the quality and quantity of water they can discharge. Solutions to maintain or expand operations include wastewater reuse and minimization of discharge to the environment. Other industries are investing in new technologies to take advantage of the evolving demand for water treatment chemicals, services, and equipment.
There is potential for reuse and scope for innovation (not only technical but also on collaborative approaches), both within and outside the fence: water can for instance be re-used as process water for cooling towers and boilers in various industries. Opportunities reside in concerted efforts and cooperation within and between industries (but also with municipal water and agriculture).
To spread and accelerate water reuse, we intend to
-Increase awareness on the opportunities lying in collaboration across sectors, spread smart solutions and new approaches,
-Create exchange opportunities to bridge gaps between stakeholders and key partners across sectors and facilitate the necessary partnerships and connections to develop sustainable and collaborative business models
-Develop engagement, push the boundaries of best practice, and show the true value of water reuse through the implementation of new pilot projects.
Read the report on the workshop on water reuse in the mining sector that we organised during IWA's 9th water reuse conference (Windhoek, 27-31 October 2013).