Industrial Use of Water and Future Challenges
90% of water in industrial use cases is used for cooling
As demands increase for the needs of water used for industrial purposes increases, the more our freshwater resources become threatened. Our population increasingly needs more water for sanitation, drinking, food production, and industry.
As climate change becomes more intense, so does the likelihood of more droughts. Therefore, policymakers must implement better policies that allow water to be supplied without degrading natural ecosystems.
Our current baseline we must accept is that we are water-based lifeforms, quality and quantity of water used is important, 3% of the water on Earth is freshwater, but not all of it is available for use. In addition, we must work towards solving problems with our current infrastructure, where 25% of the world's population does not have access to safe drinking water, 5-10 millions deaths occur each year that have a direct link to water-related diseases, and that the US is pulling more water out of aquifers that can be recharged. This means that we are using more freshwater than the Earth can replenish on its own.
With current infrastructure, the hydrologic cycle has changed. In cities, constructed storm drains and basins catch stormwater out of streets. This leans to infiltration, drawing down aquifers, and places where uncovered soils without plants not retaining water.
Current policies have led to complacency with the domestic use of water, agricultural systems developed on cheap water. This has led to the contamination if water from spills, agriculture, and run-off. Also, by making water cheap, means that institutions do not have any incentive in order to keep water clean.
In 1972, The Clean Water Act introduced guidelines for the first time that establish the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. This has been a great starting point, but it does not solely solve the problems of water inequality and distribution needed in the 21st century.
90% of water used in industrial is used for cooling and is typically returned to the source in order to dissipate and transport waste cheaply. But even without physical contamination, water being returned to the source still damages aquatic life due to the temperature of the water. Typically, water contamination issues have been easy to solve because of the focus on point source contamination that is readily located and identified. But there are strong correlations with some other non-point sources that are more difficult to identify and control because they are are less visible or are indirectly visible.
The future of water treatment will require us to address issues of where we source our water, how it is processed before it gets used, and how it is processed after it is used. It'll be interesting to see what technological advancements will allow us to close the gap.