Thirsty business: Water management strategies for high-consumption industries

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Water is one of Earth’s most consumed resources and is vital for sustaining life and supporting human activities. Global industry – agriculture, petrochemicals, mining, paper, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals – relies heavily on an abundant supply of fresh water for production and energy. In fact, as of 2023, data revealed that industry consumes approximately 22% of the world’s accessible freshwater.

Warning: Low water ahead

While water may seem abundant, it is a precious resource. Regulators and society now view accessible fresh water as limited and consider the global supply a non-renewable and non-replenishable asset. Water scarcity is increasingly being identified as a source of fundamental economic insecurity. Immense, unstoppable megatrends, including population growth, climate change, and similar socioeconomic forces spur it on. Therefore, managing water supply and use efficiently and compliantly is a top business and social objective for industrial users.

Two workers in yellow safety jackets stand on a catwalk between water reservoirs
As water consumption continues to grow across Global Industry, companies are seeking smart water strategies in order to better manage their usage.

But industry is water-hungry, and the thirst is growing. Initiatives like the Made in America Act in the United States have brought this into sharp focus as water-intensive industries (such as semiconductors and battery manufacturing) return to shore. These plants often end up in communities where water is not abundant. This necessitates investments in water infrastructure and innovation to optimize water consumption better.

Smarter consumption strategies required for thirsty industries

As these organizations and enterprises consider business continuity, profit margins, and shareholders, those pursuing a smart water management strategy are focusing on three key areas:

  • Resilience: Water resiliency, also known as water security or autonomy, is a key element of an overall water management strategy. Water resiliency can spring from many sources, including capital outlays for large retention systems or desalinization plants. It can also utilize extensive systems to treat water upstream or downstream of processes and facilities. A water resilience strategy might include equipping operating technologies (OT) with highly redundant virtual control systems. This optimizes control and response to issues in real-time before interrupting processes.
  • Reuse: Reusing water in industrial processes reduces production costs and environmental impact. With water scarcity rising, companies, especially in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical sectors, are investing in holistic water reuse approaches. Closed-loop Clean-In-Place (CIP) and Steam-In-Place (SIP) systems, for example, cut water consumption and save time and energy during system preparations.
  • Sustainability: Effective water management is key to sustainability, compliance, and cost control. Advanced smart controls and digitally networked systems provide actionable data, driving proactive water use and regulatory compliance. This transformative approach ensures better environmental outcomes and business continuity.

Boosting efficiency and saving water with digital solutions

Aquapolo, the world’s largest water reuse and treatment facility, recently digitized its plant operations in Brazil using Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform. This initiative addresses a severe regional shortage of potable water and rising industrial demand. Every liter of recycled water produced saves a liter of drinking water.

Using EcoStruxure for Water and Wastewater solutions, including AVEVA software, Aquapolo achieved:

  • Improved operational efficiency and quality control
  • Real-time water quality analysis
  • Efficient data-driven regulatory compliance
  • Dynamic billing in real time

Aquapolo now supplies potable water to more than 500,000 residents. Sheila de Oliveira, the plant’s production manager, noted a 15% increase in the plant’s total operational efficiency due to EcoStruxure.

Leading by example

Schneider Electric itself harnesses advanced technologies for efficiency and sustainability. Its Hyderabad factory, equipped with IIoT-enabled devices, was named a Sustainability Lighthouse by the World Economic Forum. To improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions, Schneider’s engineers focused on the plant’s highest consumers: air compressors and chillers. Reduced energy use by 59%

  • Improved waste optimization by 64%
  • Reduced CO2 emissions by 61%
  • Decreased water consumption by 57%

Embracing water-smart solutions

As Industry 4.0 advances, smart water management becomes crucial. Water Europe’s 2023 report prioritizes water efficiency to build a water-smart society. Digital technologies can break barriers to sustainability, and Schneider Electric’s experts are ready to help you develop a water-smart strategy. Learn more about how we can help you tap into these resources and get your water-smart strategy flowing.

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