A new tool is now being launched to help Swedish companies get a handle on their water use and choose the right water-saving measures. The tool has been developed by experts at RISE based on the established method of energy mapping, and will support companies in their water efficiency efforts.
Climate change will trigger a range of environmental crises in the coming years. Extreme weather will become more common with drought and water shortages as a consequence. Despite favourable conditions, Sweden is susceptible to recurring droughts and occasional water shortages, especially in southern and central Sweden and in coastal areas.
– “The EU has announced tougher regulations and efficiency measures are advocated relating to the expansion of water infrastructure,” says Lina Lindahl, Head of the Sustainable Water Use focus area at RISE. She also sees greater consumer expectations on industry to use natural resources, such as water, more efficiently:
– “If we end up with shortages, it is water used by households and not companies that should be prioritised by the municipal organisations. This means there may be a high risk that companies will be forced to close down due to water shortages, which in turn results in large revenue losses.”
Low priority for companies
Industry accounts for two-thirds of Sweden’s total water use. The latest statistics from Statistics Sweden show that water consumption by companies remains at the same high level as at the last measurement in 2015. Usage has only marginally decreased since 1985.
– “Water has generally been a low priority for companies, and the low price of water has not encouraged more efficient water use,” says Lindahl. “But if you understand the indirect costs that high water usage incurs in terms of increased energy costs and downstream challenges to purify the diluted water, then it would look different.”
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If we end up with shortages, it is water used by households and not companies that should be prioritised
Many parameters to consider
A colleague of Lindahl’s at RISE, Andrew Simons, specialises in resource efficiency in industrial processes and is leading the work to develop the new water mapping tool. The idea is that it can be used for water in a similar way to the model available for energy mapping.
For companies to streamline their water use, it is initially a question of determining and mapping their actual water usage. Where and for what is it used? What quality of water is used? Does consumption correspond to needs, or is there potential for improvement? For instance, it may be possible to use non-potable water in a process.
– “A difficult element in mapping water usage is managing the range of quality parameters that can be used,” says Andres Simons. “For water in energy mapping, only the temperature parameter is available. Which can be high or low. With water comes a host of different quality parameters, such as pH, organic substances, metal residues, microbial content and other types of process-dependent contaminants.
– “You may have a wastewater treatment plant that is about to reach its capacity. If you are good at saving and recirculating, you may be able to avoid investment costs to expand.
– “Other incentives for water mapping may be that you have been denied additional water abstraction, or that you want to reduce the amount of wastewater or circulate smarter to avoid heating, cooling and pumping water, sys Lena Lindahl.”
Water mapping will be offered as a service in order to carry out systematic work for water saving in close cooperation with customers. RISE experts with industry-specific process knowledge are also involved in the work, along with experts in water and material safety, so that the customer can safely implement proposed measures.
The water mapping method
1: A shared understanding of the project is established in discussions with customers.
2: Collection of measurement data as well as data on the processes, flows and systems where water in various forms is used, including future usage. Review of environmental permits and other legal requirements. Calculation of the costs for water, wastewater and ancillary costs.
3. Water quality assessment. The quality of the water throughout the business is assessed. This includes the quality requirements the various processes have and the actual quality of the water. This assessment is very important in order to conduct analyses and provide proposals for measures.
4: Visit to the facility. An opportunity to get an idea of day-to-day operations and gain an understanding of the process.
5: Analysis of how the water is used in different processes, how much new fresh water is used and how much water is reused.
6: Final report summarising the water use of the business and how it is distributed. The report also proposes measures with financial calculations.