Managing water use responsibly

'Over the last century, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase'

Tantalizingly, 97.5 percent of the world’s vast surface water volume is salt water and, of the remaining 2.5 percent present as fresh water, only 0.6 percent is available for ecosystems and human use. Whereas some areas have an abundance of this most essential of resources, most do not. Further, the UN reports that, over the last century, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase. This makes it all the more important to exploit this natural resource prudently and to be conscientious in reducing use.

Unfortunately, rain seldom falls in the right place in the right quantities and transporting water is expensive; it is estimated that California uses seven percent of its electricity just moving water around. Sometimes it is cheaper to look for alternative sources nearby or to purify water locally, but this is no panacea either: the World Business Council for Sustainable Development has estimated, for example, that it costs the same to desalinate 1 m³ of sea water as it does to pump it over 350 km (horizontally).

Water use and sustainability

According to the World Bank, agriculture accounts for over 70 percent of worldwide water use, with industrial use at 22 percent and domestic at 8 percent. And this consumption is increasing. Of these users, industry offers the most promising short-term reduction opportunity:

– It is focused in specific locations and supported by measurement and control systems.

– It is contaminant-tolerant, with the possible exception of the food and drink sector.

– It is inherently receptive to high-technology solutions.

Industry, globally, accounts for 20–25 percent of water use, but this rises to some 60 percent in developed countries. It is in industry, therefore, that we should look to improve water management.  It is in industry that we can lead the drive towards sustainability and accruing real economic benefits for the water user at the same time.

Download the full article to read about water use and sustainability, the critical role of measurement and monitoring and suitable treatment technologies. What do you think needs to happen to ensure that everyone has access to fresh water over the next 20-30 years?



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About the author

Rob Terrell

I’m a Principal Consultant with 30 years experience in industrial water treatment. I provide specialist consultancy on all aspects of water use to a wide range of customers in different industry sectors, including Refining, Heavy Chemicals, Fine Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Electronics, Power and Steel in the UK, Europe, North America, Middle East, Australia and South East Asia. I’ve presented many papers in national and international conferences. I’ve also participated in several collaborative projects with other companies in the development of software for modelling water chemistry and water networks and led an international project across different industry sectors looking at opportunities for improving water management.
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