Save water at industrial premises
Water is one of the most precious commodities that your business consumes. As an expensive resource, it is important you have systems in place to make sure you save as much water as possible.
Many businesses can save between 20 and 50 per cent of their water costs by using water saving measures. Saving water can also have a positive impact on the environment. You could use information on your water cuts to improve your reputation with stakeholders such as customers, business partners, staff and the local community.
This guide outlines how you can save water at industrial premises. It describes how techniques such as product recovery, cleaning-in-place and re-evaluating your processes can help to reduce your business' water use.
How to save water at industrial premises
Your business can save water in a number of key ways at industrial sites:
- recovering materials using a product recovery system
- cleaning equipment using cleaning-in-place systems
- using other cleaning and rinsing techniques
- using technology to monitor and adjust the rate of water flow
- reconsidering your processes
- reducing water from the process plant that you use
You should also focus on:
- adopting a systematic approach to reduce your water use in the most effective way
- using heating and cooling systems efficiently
- controlling water pressure
- avoiding leaks and overflows
- checking water meters and water bills
- reducing your mains water use by collecting rainwater and reusing water
For more information, see water reviews, policies and action plans.
If you have an environmental management system, or are intending to set one up, you should use this to manage your water use.
If your business also has facilities such as washrooms, catering or laundry areas, see how to save water at commercial premises.
Reduce water use by product recovery
Any business that uses pipework to transfer products can use product recovery techniques to reduce overall costs and make significant water savings. In many cases, no cleaning is required after product recovery systems have been installed.
A product recovery system uses a piece of technology called a 'pig'. This is a plug or ball that is used inside the pipe and is pushed along under its own power, or via a propellant such as compressed air, nitrogen or water.
The use of a pig to recover materials from your business' pipework has a number of key benefits:
- valuable raw materials or products are recovered for reuse
- water and other chemicals that are used to clean the pipework can be significantly reduced
- any additional water that is used to clean the pipework will have lower effluent loads and save you money on disposal costs
- reductions in cleaning time that can cut the production downtime of a process
Reduce water use by cleaning-in-place
The idea of cleaning-in-place (CIP) techniques is to remove 'soil' from your business' process equipment. This means that your business can clean its machinery with little or no disassembly.
Using CIP within your business can deliver a number of advantages over manual cleaning. These include:
- higher levels of machinery cleanliness
- reduced levels of chemical and water use
- recovery of fluids that can be reused
- increased levels of automation that can lead to overall efficiency savings
The CIP systems that your business puts in place need to be evaluated and possibly modified over time to give the highest levels of water and cost savings. You can optimise your CIP system in a number of ways. These include:
- checking the overall efficiency of your CIP programme to include flow rates and cycle times, cycle volumes, sequencing and temperature
- optimising pre-rinse
- optimising the detergent wash
- optimising post-rinse
- disinfectant use
- final rinse
- changes to the equipment in use
Tax breaks for water efficient equipment
The Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme provides tax incentives to businesses that invest in environmentally friendly technologies. It allows you to claim a 100 per cent first year tax allowance on equipment that appears on the Water Technology List - see Enhanced Capital Allowances for efficient technologies.
Reduce water use with cleaning and rinsing techniques
Your business can take practical steps to reduce its water use by adopting a range of cleaning and rinsing technologies and techniques.
Many businesses don't clearly understand what constitutes dirty or used water. In many cases, this water can be reused effectively in other areas of your business. Completing an audit of what you consider to be 'used' water and then evaluating how this could be reused will often reveal significant areas for water conservation and cost savings.
You could cut your business' water use by 50 per cent by adopting cleaning-in-place (CIP) techniques. For more information about CIP, see how to reduce water use by cleaning-in-place.
Using scrapers, squeegees, brushes or hoses to clean an area can reduce the cleaning time and thus save water. They can also help you to eradicate bacterial growth and provide your business with a more hygienic environment.
If solids are likely to be washed easily into drains, fitting drain covers can have a major impact on the effluent that your business produces. This will save you money by reducing the effluent charges your business has to pay.
After water has been used, it is often possible to recycle the water after it has been suitably treated and then use it again. Treatment technologies you could use include:
- ion exchange
Using countercurrent rinsing can save your business large amounts of water. This system moves your business' products through a series of tanks or rinsing stages. A product is first rinsed using dirty water and then progressively cleaner water as it moves from tank to tank.
Reduce water use by monitoring and adjusting the water flow
There are a number of technologies and techniques that you could consider to adjust water flow and reduce water use.
Sprays and jets can have a dramatic impact on how water is used in your business. Having the ability to better direct the water jet can mean you use water more efficiently. New technology allows you to use much lower pressures, which saves water overall.
You can fit turbidity probes to pipework to monitor the flow of product. Turbidity probes can sense the concentration and speed of product flow through a pipe. The technology can control valves that direct the flow. In addition, the system can reuse product that has been recovered.
Using similar technology to a turbidity probe, a conductive probe can measure levels of acidity and alkalinity in a water system. This information gives the system operator the ability to improve the level of cleaning-in-place that the system is using.
If your systems do not require a constant stream of water, you can use a shut-off system to regulate the flow. This saves money and water, as in many continuous flow systems the excess water simply flows into a drain.
Reduce water by re-evaluating your processes
You can re-evaluate the production processes that you use within your business to reveal potential areas where you can save water. The savings that your business could make include:
- reduced water cost
- reduced effluent charges
- eliminating the need to treat effluent before discharge
- reduced disposal of wastes and sludges
- product recovery
Your business should evaluate its water use in the context of the processes it uses in its day-to-day operation. Often, a small change to a process can deliver significant water savings and a reduction in cost as well - see process efficiency to cut waste.
Reduce water use from your process plant
The machinery and plant in your business can be a major contributing factor to your water use. Looking closely at the plant you use and how water is used within them will highlight which you could modify to make them more water efficient.
Liquid ring vacuum pumps use a continuous supply of water, typically heated to 15 degrees Celsius, to provide a seal. You can make significant water savings by reusing wastewater for this process, and by cooling the seal water.
Typically, businesses that have equipment that needs to be cooled will connect their equipment to the main water supply and use this as a 'once through' process, discharging the used water into a drain. You can make substantial water savings by reusing water to provide the cooling.
You can use refrigeration units, air blast chillers and evaporation towers to cool the water. Also, if there is significant heat build-up as the water is used, you can recover this heat with a heat exchanger.
Cooling towers generally need to use make-up water to replace blowdown or evaporation. The amount of make-up water needed depends on the cooling load required. Minimising the cooling load will reduce the use of fresh water as make-up water.
The cooling towers your business may use also lose water as mist or spray. You can install optimised automatic blowdown control, which will use this spray loss to clean your cooling tower of solid deposits, saving water overall.
You may be able to make significant water and cost savings by using heating and cooling systems efficiently, see water reviews, policies and action plans.