Soaking up savings – water efficiency
Water-efficient technology has vast potential and the associated tax
relief can help manufacturers boost their bottom line. Water specialist
Claire Sweeney, at UK sustainable business programme Envirowise, reports
As changing weather patterns and population growth increase the
potential for severe water shortages, the need for effective water
management is becoming greater than ever.
It is predicted that UK groundwater levels will begin to decrease by
2025, for example, the overall amount of water available in English and
Welsh rivers is expected to reduce by 15% by 2050, according to the
UK’s Environment Agency. Even businesses based in regions with higher
water availability could feel the effect in their supply chains, while
many companies could face changes to licences granted to allow water
abstraction as a result of the Water Act 2003.
A business’s water footprint includes both indirect and direct water impacts. Direct water impacts are associated with water that is used from the
tap and taken from a company’s water resources. Indirect water impacts
are associated with the use of water throughout the entire ‘cradle to
grave’ process to produce a product or service (for example, water used
to grow crops, feed animals and use products at the consumer end of the
supply chain). Indirect water impacts are much more complex to measure
than direct water impacts.
Improving direct water efficiency will put companies on the road to
future-proof against the potential effects of climate change and
deliver significant financial benefits from reduced water supply costs
and lower waste water disposal charges. Businesses that take a
systematic approach could cut their water consumption by up to 50%.
Balancing the books
Key to accessing these savings is constructing a water balance to
highlight where water enters and leaves a business, where it is lost
and – crucially – where the greatest opportunities for reduction lie.
If necessary, sub-meters can analyse usage within different parts of
There are two important ways to help cut water costs – installing water
saving devices and considering options for recovery and reuse. Using
sprays and jets for cleaning, for example, can allow water to be better
directed and therefore used more efficiently. Aerating water flow –
both within plants and domestic areas such as staff kitchens and
toilets – allows sprays, jets and taps to be used at a much lower
pressure, further cutting water consumption.
Any sites that use pipework can reduce usage with product recovery
systems that employ plugs or balls, known as ‘pigs’. These are pushed
along the inside of a pipe by the product itself or a propellant, such
as compressed air or nitrogen, so that less cleaning is required and
raw material use decreases by enabling reuse of the recovered product.
Effluent treatment costs will also fall because the waste water will
have a lower effluent load.
In situ solutions
Cleaning-in-place (CIP) can deliver further advantages by cleaning
machinery with little or no disassembly. This reduces chemical and
water use, while recovering fluids that can be reused and increasing
efficiency through greater automation. To harness the full benefits,
however, CIP systems must be carefully monitored to ensure flow rates,
cycle times and temperatures are optimised.
Manufacturers should also consider installing control and monitoring
devices. These include leakage detectors, as well as technology such as
turbidity probes that sense the speed and concentration of liquid
through a pipe and control valves to direct the flow. Shut-off systems
can be used where a constant stream of fluid is not needed, avoiding
Sites that use water for cleaning, cooling, heating and quenching could
benefit from water recovery and reuse systems, such as membrane
filtration, which separates mixtures of materials depending on the
particle size. When used for waste water treatment, it offers a high
level of purification and requires little energy to operate. The
quantity of water reused depends on the level of treatment, which is
directly related to the characteristics of the site effluent and the
application for the treated water.
Financial returns are not just available through mains supply and
as many water efficient technologies are also eligible for tax relief
through the Water Technology List (WTL). The WTL is managed by the UK
Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affiars, and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, in
partnership with UK sustainable business programme Envirowise. The list
provides over 1,800 water efficient products and forms part of the
Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme, enabling UK companies that pay
income or corporation tax to claim 100% of first-year capital
allowances when purchasing eligible products for their business. This
provides a cash flow boost and results in a shortened payback period.
Water is set to become one of the most dramatically affected resources
as climate change takes hold, but there are many steps which
manufacturers can take to manage the risk, aiding the environment and
the bottom line.
To find out more about purchasing products from the WTL, or to apply
for certification for a membrane filtration or recovery and reuse
system, visit www.eca-water.gov.uk.
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