Report examines changing value of water, implications from five industrial sectors

CH2M HILL, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently released the report, “The Changing Value of Water to the U.S. Economy and Implications from Five Industrial Sectors.” The report, which was developed for EPA as part of its initiative titled “The Importance of Water to the United States Economy,” examines the critical role water plays in industrial production and the U.S. economy, and how the value of water is changing in five industrial sectors: semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil and gas.

DENVER, CO, Sept. 25, 2012 – CH2M HILL, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently released the report, “The Changing Value of Water to the U.S. Economy and Implications from Five Industrial Sectors.”

The report, which was developed for EPA as part of its initiative titled “The Importance of Water to the United States Economy,” examines the critical role water plays in industrial production and the U.S. economy, and how the value of water is changing in five industrial sectors: semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil and gas.

Case studies on how Intel, Rio Tinto, Dow Chemical, Chesapeake Energy and Southern Company engage in water policy decisions, assess and report on water use, and are improving water process efficiency to derive the maximum value from the water they use are included in the report.

"This report focused on identifying the water challenges faced by selected industrial sectors, and has showcased some of the approaches that are being taken to address them. There is every indication that with water being squeezed from both ends–climate change altering supply and population growth increasing demand–water issues will continue to increase,” says CH2M HILL’s report’s lead author Mike Matichich, who worked with Sartaz Ahmed, with additional critical support from co-authors Marek Mierzejewski, Bill Byers, and Dan Pitzler as well as Ralph Williams and Sheila Galegher, all of CH2M HILL.

Water is a critical component in all sectors of the U.S. economy and serves a range of different uses, from direct input to supporting operations. Today, with increasing demand for water resources and uncertainty about the amount and quality of supply, the competition for water resources is being felt across all sectors of society. Awareness of the ways water-related risks can disrupt business has increased, and is also garnering the attention from all interested and affected parties, from government to consumers.

“Although the cost and price of water varies tremendously across the United States, corporations are increasingly assessing and reporting their water use and improving water process efficiency,” adds Matichich. “In addition, companies are seeking economic and technological innovations. Many companies are also forging partnerships to improve efficiency and derive maximum value from the water they and the surrounding community use.”

Although water’s influence on corporate decisions and the use of water varies across sectors, the industries examined face some common challenges and opportunities in managing water resources and ensuring the availability of water for their operations:

  • Increasing competition for water
  • Increasing awareness of water usage (measurement and reporting)
  • Potential for business disruption because of changes in volume or quality of water
  • Efforts to increase water efficiency and to plan for contingencies (developing engineering or economic solutions, including investing in public or private infrastructure, depending on such factors as cost and availability of water resources and rights)
  • Innovation (technological, financial, and collaboration via partnerships)

Industries are adopting best practices to maximize their position with regard to water resources, including implementing measures such as water reduction in the process, energy reduction in operations (addressing the “water cost of energy”), enhanced monitoring and automated control of water reuse, increased vigilance and control of indirect water consumption, “fitness-for-use,” and water reuse.

For instance, Intel is spending more than $200 million on public infrastructure, including water and wastewater facilities, at its operations in Ocotillo, Ariz., and has partnered with the nearby City of Chandler to implement water usage technologies that benefit both the company and the local community. In addition, today Intel uses 1.25 to 1.5 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of ultrapure water, needed to remove the impurities that can short out the hundreds of circuits in each chip, down from almost 2 gallons in the recent past.

Dow Chemical Company has also made the connection between climate change and water risk and has developed a number of water management strategies, including implementing advanced water-cooling technology in 2010 which is saving 1 billion gallons of water and $4 million annually. Dow is also reducing fresh water use by partnering with a neighboring wastewater utility in Freeport, Texas, to utilize municipal effluent for operations, and is developing a reservoir to create a more reliable water supply for both the company and local residents.

Further details on EPA’s Importance of Water to the U.S. Economy initiative, CH2M HILL’s full paper that contains all five case studies, and six other related papers that were commissioned by EPA can be found the website that EPA has created for this effort at: http://water.epa.gov/action/importanceofwater/index.cfm

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