Blue gold in industry: maximizing water efficiency

20 December 2023

Blue gold, a precious resource under threat

The term "blue gold" refers to water, a vital and priceless resource whose quantity and quality are now threatened by climate change and human activities that pollute and waste it. Although it is considered a common good of humanity, water is the object of economic interest to the point of being compared to a market commodity. This is because only 2.5 percent of the total water on Earth is fresh, and of this percentage, only 0.65 percent is available for consumption, as the remaining 2/3 of fresh water is trapped in ice caps and glaciers. The vast majority of the remaining 97% is salt water from the oceans, unsuitable for human consumption, but used for purposes such as washing, irrigation, and most industrial activities. However, the industrial sector also makes extensive use of freshwater, making sustainable water management a top priority.

Water use in the industrial sector 

According to official UNESCO sources, global freshwater consumption is significantly influenced by the industrial and energy sectors, which together account for 19 percent of total withdrawals. In fact, in addition to drinking water needs for civilian use, the sectors that rely most heavily on groundwater reservoirs are manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, electricity, civil engineering and construction, and the textile, food, and beverage industries, all of which depend on freshwater.
In industry, groundwater is used in a wide range of applications, including production, processing, washing, dilution, cooling and transportation of products. However, the focus is often on the distribution of the resource, neglecting the fundamental need to ensure sustainable groundwater management, limit its contamination and, where necessary, promote sustainable desalination processes.

The impact of industrial discharges on water resources 

Discharge and infiltration of untreated or partially treated industrial effluents into the ground, such as through injection wells, can result in groundwater contamination, with a ripple effect on various uses of the resource, including irrigation, drinking water supply and various industrial sectors. These adverse effects of soil contamination and leaching can pose significant risks to the environment and human health.

The risks associated with groundwater contamination underscore the critical importance of careful, sustainable management and water efficiency in industrial activities to promote active protection of the environment and human health.

What is sustainable water management?

Promoting sustainable water management involves a change in perspective and the adoption of innovative technologies aimed at reducing environmental impact and pressure on the planet's water resources.

Planning a sustainable water "management plan" includes:

  • Surveying and mapping available water sources, i.e. identifying and cataloguing all water resources in the area of interest, including rivers, lakes, aquifers and other water reservoirs. Accurate mapping of these resources is essential to understanding water availability.
  • Assess the current quality and quantity of water sources: a detailed analysis is essential to know the level of contamination and to monitor freshwater availability.
  • Assess the level of human activity on the resource and the current rate of pollution: it is important to understand the impact of human activities on water quality and quantity in order to identify sources of pollution and manage them properly.
  • Achieving a balance between withdrawals and returns: an essential part of water management is to ensure that withdrawals are in balance with returns. This includes promoting water conservation practices and building infrastructure to treat and reuse industrial wastewater.
  • Set quality targets for specific objectives: establishing clear objectives for the use of water resources, such as water supply, agricultural irrigation, or industrial use, provides essential guidance to ensure that water meets the specific requirements for each type of use.
  • Planning for the destination of the sources present in the region: Intelligent planning of water resources implies the optimal destination of the available sources. This may involve the creation of infrastructure for the treatment, distribution and reuse of water to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.

Advanced technologies to improve water use efficiency

There is considerable potential in the industrial sector to improve the efficiency of water use, promote the recycling and reuse of this precious resource, and reduce the risk of pollution. The main objective is to reduce or even eliminate the negative impacts of industrial water use. Here are some key solutions:

  • Find new sources: invest in research and development of new sources of water supply, including innovative methods of water acquisition and management.
  • Invest in sustainable desalination: seawater desalination is a critical solution for ensuring reliable access to freshwater, especially in arid regions. Investments in sustainable desalination technologies promote more efficient use of water resources.
  • Continuous improvement of treatment: to ensure the efficiency and sustainability of water use, investment in state-of-the-art industrial wastewater treatment processes and systems is essential. This ensures that the water released into the environment meets high quality standards, helping to preserve and protect water resources and the surrounding ecosystem.
  • Wastewater reuse: promoting the reuse of treated wastewater within the production cycle is a practice that reduces dependence on fresh water resources and contributes to sustainable water management.

At IDRO Group we design effective and appropriate solutions for water treatment, designing and creating advanced technology systems, specific to each sector and customized to the needs of the customer.

Contact us for further information!

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