Many industrial plant and mine owners know some of the biggest headaches that can come with treating wastewater include the costs and occasional operational upsets associated with these processes. From seeing that environmental standards and regulations are continuously met to tackling and addressing concentrated wastewater compounds, there is no room for error.

Water management is a high priority for keeping operations at plants and mines running smoothly. A zero liquid discharge (ZLD) treatment process can help solve for the most common water concerns as it is used to remove liquid waste produced in many processes. The way water is handled within industrial processes, especially in today’s world — where fresh water is an extremely valuable resource — can threaten its availability and impact the local environment, unless it’s properly treated.

There are many benefits of integrating a ZLD system; however, installing it can be costly and complicated if not conducted properly. By combining the right mix of technology, planning and experience, plant and mine owners can more easily streamline its implementation.

No matter the ZLD project size, better results are created when a strategic and comprehensive approach is used. This includes planning ahead to create an early framework that defines and determines scope, cost, schedule, technical needs and procurement requirements.

During the upfront planning and design phase, startup and commissioning must be considered when evaluating system, structure and process components for the project. Simply giving proper consideration for temporary equipment, hoses, valves and instrumentation at the right location can streamline your commissioning schedule. By focusing on these and similar items with proper preparation from the beginning, the project has more potential to finish with a successful turnover.

Another approach to consider with proper planning for ZLD projects is modularization. This method can help control costs and schedule while also reducing on-site risk. With modularization, much of the labor for needs related to equipment, pipes, and electrical and structural components is completed in a controlled fabrication shop rather than on-site. These modules are created in the shop and then transported to the construction area to be installed.

While these tactics are key, they can’t solve for every variable of the project alone. Technology can help in handling some of the complexities of project management.

In the past, preparing for projects was completed by hand, with lots of lists, drawings and manuals that took large amounts of time to track and complete. Now, with more advanced technologies — like SmartPlant — at our fingertips, tedious steps are more easily integrated into one convenient platform, saving time, money and labor on the project.

The successful integration of ZLD systems into existing facilities requires lots of planning, timely implementation and key technologies. An experienced engineer-procure-construct (EPC) team can help streamline and deliver these projects, which are critical to protecting our water supply and meeting stringent regulations.


A project’s success relies heavily on planning proactively. With a focus from the beginning on successful construction and commissioning activities, late-stage complications and increased costs and schedules can be avoided.

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Patricia Scroggin-Wicker is director of process technology for the Energy Group at Burns & McDonnell. With nearly 20 years of industry experience, Tisha helps lead initiatives focusing on new and emerging technologies, including hydrogen-fueled generation, flow batteries, carbon capture and other forms of long-duration energy storage. As a process engineer with deep knowledge of the regulatory landscape, she has become a sought-after resource within the power industry.