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Water Conservation A Win-Win For Economy

By Naina Gautam February 09, 2024

WSDS 2024: A policy brief released at TERI’s WSDS 2024 lays down blue print for improving water efficiency in water-intensive sectors

Water Conservation A Win-Win For Economy
TERI released a policy brief ,“Benchmarking Industrial Water Use Efficiency In India”. The brief focuses on water-intensive sectors' potential for improving water efficiency through interventions based on water audits.
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India’s per capita water availability has been on the decline, and the available water is not used efficiently in various water-intensive sectors like thermal power plants, pulp and paper, textiles, and iron and steel industries. Thermal power plants have the highest consumption of water, followed by pulp and paper, textiles, and iron and steel industries.

Water use efficiency can help achieving sustainable development goals and conserve water and money for the economy. The National Water Mission of the Indian Government also focuses on enhancing water use efficiency by 20%. Inefficiency is owing to factors like over extraction, pollution, or lack of waste-water treatment, leakages/losses, old technologies and manufacturing processes, lack of water and waste-water reuse etc.

Anshuman, Director, Water Resources Division, TERI, says, “We are still consuming 2-3 times more water in comparison to the best practices being followed in the world. The industrial water demands have increased multi-fold, to three times to what it was, to what will be required by 2050.”

To provide a pathway, TERI released a policy brief titled, “Benchmarking Industrial Water Use Efficiency In India”. The brief focuses on water-intensive sectors' potential for improving water efficiency through interventions based on water audits. The evaluation determined the best practices, technologies, opportunities, and policy interventions needed to improve water efficiency.
 
Anshuman says, “A World Bank assessment does indicate that, in terms of economic value created per unit of water consumed, we were around $7.5 per meter cube of water consumed versus other countries in the west, they were around 30-40 and UK was around 400 plus in terms of dollars per meter cube of water consumed. However, there is enormous scope for improving water use efficiency.”

Water efficiency also helps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). SDG 6 is focussed on water and one of its underlying principles is to increase water use efficiency in all sectors. Pulp and paper industry, thermal power industry, textile and steel industry are water intensive.

Anshuman says, “Any percentage increase in efficiency, or reduction in the water consumption will significantly add to water availability and sustainability. That will contribute to the SDG goal.”
 
To increase efficiency in thermal power plants, which are highly water intensive, Anshuman says, “Enormous amount of water is consumed in the thermal power plants in the cooling systems and ash- handling. Around 50% is what cooling systems consume and around 30% is consumed in ash handling systems. The opportunity lies in re-using the water in the cooling towers, before its blow down. The cycle of concentration (CoC) is low as of now and can be increased to 5-6 times. Ash water re-circulation or recycling of ash water within the plant operations is another important intervention.”

Increased efficiency by using these interventions  is also financially beneficial to the business. Anshuman says, “The power plants can potentially save an amount of around Rs 30 crore annually on an average, and water around 10 million cubic meter per year.”

Conservation of water is not only, “good for the resources, but also makes economic sense for the industry to adopt” adds Anshuman.

The policy brief suggests that water consumption benchmarks be established for various industries, the Bureau of Water Use Efficiency be granted legal standing, third-party water audits be made mandatory, information be managed and shared publicly, and industrial standards be determined by the carrying capacity of the area.

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