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How industry can secure its water supply

It may be time for Swedish industry to become more aware of its water consumption. The risk of water scarcity is only part of the problem. 
"The EU's Green Deal imposes stricter requirements, and old permits may be re-evaluated. Many would benefit from a better overview before we get there," says Marie Karlberg of RISE. 

In many parts of the world, people are used to managing water as a valuable resource, whereas in Sweden we take water availability for granted and periods of water shortage as something abnormal and short-lived.

Water scarcity already a reality in south-east Sweden 

But this must change, regardless of whether you operate in parts of the country where the risk of recurring water shortages is high or not.

"In south-east Sweden, water scarcity is already a reality. Here, public discussions about reduced irrigation and water conservation are a natural part of the conversation," says Marie Karlberg, project manager for industrial and urban symbiosis at RISE, which works to bring stakeholders together to contribute to the sustainable use of resources and the reduction of residual waste.

Periods of water scarcity due to heat and drought - such as the hot summer of 2018 and the dry summer of 2022 - will become more frequent in the next 10-15 years. Eastern Skåne, Blekinge, eastern Småland, Öland and Gotland will be particularly affected. This is something that the industries in the area will also have to deal with.

"The situation will be particularly vulnerable for industries that draw water from the municipal network, where the municipality may be forced to set priorities."

More responsible use a necessity regardless of scarcity 

Despite the heat and drought, large parts of the country will have plenty of fresh water for the foreseeable future.However, Swedish industry, which accounts for around 70 percent of the country's water consumption, will need to be more responsible with its water use, regardless of whether or not its operations are located in risk areas.

"This is a matter of shifting emphasis in legislation, both in the EU, where the Green Deal focuses on optimised resource use, and in Sweden. To put it simply, in the past the focus was mainly on the individual company when issuing permits, but today there is an increasing focus on the concept of the cycle and resource sharing. Each company is not an isolated unit, but part of a larger infrastructure."

"This means that industries need to set targets and, where possible, reduce their use of fresh water and increasingly explore systems to reuse wastewater, for example, before it is discharged. Moving to a circular economy means that they need to see themselves as part of a cycle where, for example, heated wastewater can be passed on to another user."

Reduced water use means reduced resource consumption in the system

Many benefits to reviewing your water use 

Marie Karlberg also believes that there are many benefits to reviewing your water use. Not only in terms of reducing the risk of lost production, but also in terms of identifying and reducing risks and, not least, costs.

"Reduced water use means reduced resource consumption in the system.This saves direct costs, as well as indirect costs such as reduced power consumption for pumps and treatment plants, often in multiple stages."

So what do industry leaders need to consider in terms of water use in the future?

"One general piece of advice is to gain better and deeper knowledge of water use and risks - but also to quantify the potential for reduced use in monetary terms. This is already being done in many places, although more needs to be done now before the problem becomes acute."

RISE is already helping industries with water mapping to identify opportunities to reduce water use. These assessments can include the relationship between water and energy use and cost analyses of industrial processes.

"We also help with the actual improvement work, such as conditions for re-use. Often we have to look at the issues from a safety perspective: if you start recirculating water instead of putting it into the sewer system, what are the risks in terms of pollution, sedimentation, etc.?"

HOW TO SECURE THE WATER SUPPLY FOR YOUR BUSINESS  

  • Comprehensive analysis. An overall understanding of the impact of water use on your business, translated into real costs, can bring more structure to your day-to-day operations. 
  • Risk awareness. What is the financial impact of water scarcity on my business? 
  • Understand your context. What is the availability of water in your area? When is water plentiful - and when is it not? How will climate change affect water? 
  • Water mapping - methodology. Review your use in your business to gain a better understanding of consumption in different sub-processes. Is there a need for online meters and other tools to understand and optimise water use? 
Marie Karlberg

Contact person

Marie Karlberg

Projektledare

+46 10 516 51 03

Read more about Marie

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