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Water is a finite resource. It's referred to that way because only 3% of the world's water is available to us as freshwater (includes all surface water, frozen, and groundwater). Manufacturers are including water conservation practices such as recycling wastewater into their corporate sustainability goals. Many technologies are available that allow manufacturers to recycle and reuse their process water. This sustainable practice has become increasingly essential as population growth and drought increases the demand for water.

A brief history of sustainability

In the U.S., before 1969 industrial wastewater treatment was not considered necessary by manufacturers who saw it as a cost with no payback. It meant an increase to operation costs without increasing profitability. When the Cuyahoga River caught fire on June 22, 1969, all this started to change. The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) was passed on January 1, 1970 and facilitated the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of the first pieces of legislation the EPA introduced was the Clean Water Act. This amended the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1948 and gave more funding and legal muscle to the EPA for cleaning up the environment. By the late 1960's, society was more environmentally aware, and that awareness continues to grow. Now, the cost center of wastewater treatment has largely become an investment in marketing the corporate image.

Technologies for industrial water recycling

Water quality is the largest factor in determining the scope and cost of an industrial water reuse project. The technology used for water recycling and reuse varies based on the water quality: water to be recycled and water required for reuse. For example, a manufacturer may require high purity water (de-ionized with conductivity of <5 micro mhos), and their waste stream contains high dissolved solids (> 20,000 ppm TDS). Those factors affect the number of treatment steps required and the membrane technology that is needed to improve the water quality to a reusable state. A variety of treatment technologies are available to support an water quality requirements and conditions. The majority of these industrial water reuse systems will use reverse osmosis equipment as one of the final steps:

  • Standard Reverse Osmosis (RO)- Handles water with up to 1,500 ppm TDS.
  • High Pressure Reverse Osmosis (like ProChem's I-PRO™) - Handles water with up to 35,000 ppm TDS.

A simple industrial water reuse project may require only reverse osmosis equipment. A more complex application may require several pretreatment steps before the reverse osmosis equipment. Here are some examples of pretreatment options:

  • Chemical pretreatment
  • Another HPRO or RO
  • Deionized water
  • FOG removal
  • Ultra-filtration

Pretreatment before the reverse osmosis equipment reduces water impurities and conductivity. This not only helps to achieve the desired water quality but also protects the membranes inside the equipment (requiring less chemical use to clean membranes, increasing permeate flow, and extending membrane life). If you are looking for water treatment vendor to help with your industrial water reuse goals for sustainability, start by researching companies who offer industrial water reuse systems that use reverse osmosis technology.  

ProChem strives to help their customers establish the highest level of credibility and a positive reputation within the regulatory community. Their goal is to significantly reduce the amount of fresh water that manufacturers require by providing sustainable solutions that will also benefit the customer’s bottom line.