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Article: Water use in a circular economy

05/11/2021 | 06:00pm EDT

All living things on our planet need water to survive, so it is critical to implement the sustainable means of using water and managing it.

By 2050, the world's population will grow from over 7 billion today to more than 9 billion. To feed all these people, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global production of food will need to increase by 70%. And the OECD predicts that by 2050, in the absence of new water-management policies, global water use will increase by more than 50%.

Agriculture consumes the bulk of water used worldwide. And second to agricultural uses are industrial processes, which consume about 19% of freshwater withdrawals. Water for industrial processes span the range from fabricating and processing, cooling or washing to incorporating water into the final product (excluding water used by hydropower plants).

In their report 'Business guide to circular water management: spotlight on reduce, reuse and recycle' on achieving circular wastewater management in industry, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) noted that '[b]enchmarked data across industries indicate that there are opportunities to reduce industrial water consumption by up to 50%' through circular water management steps to reduce water use, reuse and recycle water, recovering water resources, and replenishing water ecosystems-the '5Rs approach' developed by the International Water Association.

Most organizations focus on the first step: reducing water consumption. A basic first step toward water efficiency is to identify where water is wasted within a site or its industrial processes. Facility managers should find and repair water leaks and install low-flow faucets, toilets and urinals. Water-efficient equipment in commercial laundry or kitchen areas should be installed. Use filtration to optimize water used in production processes, allowing the filtered water to be used for multiple cycles. Install smart water meters to track water use, detect leaks and provide real-time reporting.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), water used for cooling and heating commercial buildings consumes from 30% to 50% of a building's total water use. By increasing the amount of non-potable water for cooling towers, organizations can reduce the amount of treated municipal water they consume-an increasingly important factor in water-stressed regions of the world. Non-potable, gray water sources include filtered and recycled process wastewater, recovered condensate and rainwater harvesting.

Reducing our water footprint and helping our customers do the same

To reduce freshwater consumption as much as possible and to ensure that water is used responsibly, companies are looking for ways to treat water once it has been used and reuse it in downstream processes.

We recognize that the water we use at our own facilities is a shared resource. And while our processes are not particularly water intensive, water is critical to many of our operations. Each of our sites must maintain up-to-date water maps and documentation of the following sources: water intake; water use; wastewater generation (including non-contact cooling water).

Our recent water-use management projects at our facilities include:

  • In Nacogdoches, Texas, we redesigned our wastewater treatment system to eliminate excess rinse stages, reducing water used by 20%.
  • Our Dausenau facility in Germany installed new heat exchangers and compressor systems with heat recovery capabilities. These technologies enabled excess heat from the site's presses to be captured and reused to warm the facility. By reusing waste heat, we lowered the volume of ground water needed to cool the presses, resulting in a 49% reduction in water used in the facility.
  • At several facilities in India, we've installed smart faucets and sensors and implemented rainwater harvesting, and our water consumption is projected to drop by almost one million liters of water over a year.
  • At our Langenlonsheim facility in Germany, we installed four of our own F-Series modular filter systems, which can clean up to 3,000 gallons of water per minute. We've reduced fresh water use by more than 2.6 million gallons of water a year.
  • At our engine valve plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement and non-irrigated landscapes help to conserve water and reduce runoff. And we've reduced energy and water process discharges with an efficient air compressor system and industrial wastewater treatment, including treating chrome and industrial process water with ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis systems. About 5,500 gallons of oily water are recycled per day, with 10,000 gallons being reused per month.

Our water stewardship focus is multi-dimensional based on the specific issues and regulations within a watershed or region and encompasses water quality, water conservation, stormwater management and reducing water consumption. We map our water-stressed sites using World Resource Institutes Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. According to that analysis, about 20% of our manufacturing sites are in areas classified as water-stressed. Water stress is a watershed-based measurement of the ratio of water withdrawals to the availability of surface water and groundwater-essentially a measure of competition for scarce water resources. Our zero-water discharge target focuses on our sites in areas of highest baseline water stress.

Eaton's 2030 Sustainability Goals: zero water discharge

At Eaton, sustainability is at the core of our mission-to improve the quality of life and the environment. And the need to focus on the environment has never been more urgent. One of our 2030 Sustainability Goals is to certify 10% of our manufacturing sites as zero water discharge. Every year we set water reduction goals and evaluate our water use management practices. Since 2015, we have reduced water consumption by 710,597 cubic meters, which equals a 14% reduction from our baseline.

We have committed to using responsible water practices to minimize potential negative impacts of wastewater on the environment and producing solutions that improve water efficiency, quality, sanitation and desalination in communities around the world.


Eaton Corporation plc published this content on 12 May 2021 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 18 May 2021 09:54:06 UTC.

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