When you think of industry, whether oil and gas, manufacturing or any other sector, water doesn’t immediately come to mind. It’s rarely a major component of what is being produced — often, it isn’t even an ingredient. Yet it’s essential to the ongoing operations of virtually all plants and refineries.
Raw water is essential to powering fabrication, cooling and steam generation processes. For some, industrial wastewater is even treated on-site and reused for similar purposes. Still, industrial water and wastewater infrastructure updates and repairs aren’t usually a high priority for plant operators. Most facilities take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach that is bound to fail eventually.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Unfortunately, when plants and refineries don’t prioritize water resources management, problems tend to creep up unnoticed. Until a drought, raw water may seem in good supply. When the supply is suddenly reduced, however, everyone is forced to look for alternative sources. Both municipal supplies and natural sources are in greater demand, and prices rise.
Similarly, if an industrial wastewater processing plant unexpectedly goes out of service, the operator may not have the funds to repair it. If refinery operations depend on water reuse, the operator may also have to purchase additional water until the plant is functioning again.
In each of these cases, a foreseeable problem has the potential to become overwhelming and expensive due to a lack of water supply planning.
Plan Ahead to Get Ahead
Though changes in government regulations tend to move slowly enough that you can see them coming, the industry often waits too long to implement necessary upgrades. A mad dash to find a work-around almost always introduces additional expenses.
It’s far more effective for an organization to assess its facility before problems arise. Doing so will help the operator understand how water is being used throughout various production processes. The industrial water supply systems can then be optimized to provide the greatest savings.
For instance, it might be determined that the cost of replacing existing sand filters with more expensive membrane systems is offset by reduced water consumption. Or, if industrial wastewater is discharged to another facility or a river, it might be more efficient to recapture and reuse it.
Invest for the Future
When you look at the big picture, even large capital investments in water resources management often make financial sense. Although buying the quantities of water needed to operate sand filters may be affordable in good times, as the industrial rate per gallon climbs during a drought, membrane systems become much more cost-effective. Likewise, treating and reusing wastewater for cooling towers or boiler feed makeup water may save money in the long run, despite the cost of building a water treatment facility.
Water is just like power — without it, there’s no industry. To keep your facility running consistently, it pays to explore drought mitigation, water reclamation and other water supply planning strategies before an emergency strikes.