Here are some cost-effective solutions to help lower water consumption and operating costs.
The water efficiency process
In line with new national initiatives and strategies to tackle climate action and use water wisely, the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is encouraged to reduce their water footprint. Here are some cost-effective solutions to help lower water consumption and operating costs.
Baseline Water Footprint
This first step will help you capture a baseline of your current water usage and identify sources of risk like leakage, inability to expand production, and compliance concerns.
Establish a Water Balance for your site
A water balance provides a full picture of every water-consuming component on site and serves as the first step in uncovering hidden opportunities for savings. We propose including all flows of water into and out of the six basic categories from the water balance format provided below.
- Inlet water pre-treatment
- Cooling towers
- Processing (any water consuming facility which is a part of the production process)
- Wastewater plant (if it exists), or water effluent
- Other (ash ponds in a power plant)
Capturing Water Related Costs
In addition to capturing related flow capacities, collecting all related costs such as those listed below will provide an insight into where to save money on water bills.
- Water use
- Wastewater discharge fees
- Pre-treatment technology
- Energy costs associated with water use (heating, pumping, water treatment etc.)
- Regulatory costs (permits, compliance assessment, etc.)
- Costs for water management measures (staff time / resources, technology, equipment and materials)
Identify Efficiency Opportunities
Based on your water balance, rank the various components by water usage and focus on the largest water users. Identify leakages and sources for waste like excess cleaning and washing.
Sources for Water Reuse and Recycling
For many facilities, cooling towers represent the single largest opportunity for greater water efficiency. Cooling towers should be investigated to determine how many times water circulates before it is bled off and discharged. Increasing the recycle rate of the tower results in multiple savings, from water and sewer costs to savings on the purchase of chemicals used to treat both incoming and discharged water.
Replace single-pass cooling systems, where water is circulated once through a piece of equipment and then discharged to a sewer, with a process or cooling loop. This loop provides water at a pre-set temperature to cool equipment. When a process loop is not possible, reusing single loop discharge water for irrigation or other nonpotable water requirements is another way to increase water efficiency.
Equipment Rinsing and Cleaning
Countercurrent rinsing is typically the most water efficient method for rinsing equipment. In this process, the cleanest water is used only for the final or last stages of a rinse operation; water for early rinsing tasks, when the quality of the water is not as important, can be collected from water that is used during later stages in the process. Another form of efficiency rinsing is batch processing, when several pieces of equipment are cleaned at the same time, using rinses from one process in another.
Alternative Water Sources
Large facilities are good candidates for alternative water sources due to the fact that they typically use large amounts of non-potable water. Companies may be able to update processes to allow for the use of saline and wastewater instead of fresh water. This approach reduces the impact on freshwater resources with subsequent benefits to the local community and the ecosystem. The two most useful, 'alternative', water sources for facilities are air-conditioning condensate recovery and rainwater harvesting.
Getting your stakeholders involved early on is essential in establishing initial buy-in, and ensuring the ongoing succcess of any water conservation campaign.
Engage Your Employees as a Source for Water Savings Ideas
- Identify process and product innovations and estimate the total effect on water savings to establish a goal.
- Establish a budget and procure funding. Outside funding and grants can be available.
- Develop a timeline for implementation and schedule periodic reviews with the water efficiency team to monitor progress.
- Develop an internal communications plan to continue engaging employees and creating awareness.
Execute and Measure
Reducing your water footprint not only improves your operating performance and compliance, it also creates value for your customers and shareholders.
Ensure the economic value outweighs the cost of the project
Reducing your water footprint has several layers of value recognition. When monitoring the progree of a water project, it is recommended to capture the achieved value in all categories e.g. economic. In order to execute a water related project, the economic value has to outweigh the cost of the project. Using Steps 1-3 of the water efficiency process will allow you to compare the existing cost structure to a future state.
Environmental impact goals can be managed only when they are measurable and quantifiable. Water footprint can be measured using a variety of metrics:
An Absolute Water Savings Volume - Example: 10,000 gallons per day. This metric is the simplest and most intuitive but it does not include consideration for production expansion, as future growth can result in an increased demand for water.
A Variable Metric of Water Used per Common Denominator - The most common denominators are unit production and revenue.
- Power - Gallons/KwHr
- Refineries – Gallons/barrel of crude oil
- Beverage – Gallons/litre of beverage
- Auto – Gallons/vehicle
- Warehouse areas – Gallons/ft2
Total Metric Tons of Wastewater Loadings - As per wastewater quality, most companies use their Corporate Sustainability Report to disclose volume of loadings in the following categories: COD, BOD, TSS and metals.
- Financial – Savings created from water projects and production expansion
- Strategic – Getting ahead of the competition by creating a more progressive sustainability policy and reporting it in the annual CSR report
- Operational – Optimised supply chain with high efficiency
- Hazard – Prevention of safety and compliance issues
We are delighted to be the first pharmaceutical manufacturer in Ireland to participate in Irish Water’s Water Conservation Campaign.
Solutions for Sustainable Water Savings
A Guide to Water Efficiency
GE Healthcare published a guide to help promote water conservation in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector. Thank you to GE for sharing this research and content with us. For more information visit the GE website.