Water is a vital resource for life on the planet, but it is also one of the most threatened by human activity. In particular, the industrial sector is one of the main consumers and polluters of water worldwide.

According to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the industrial sector uses about 20% of the water withdrawn worldwide, including water for hydroelectric and nuclear power generation, thermoelectric power and industrial processes.

This figure is expected to increase in the coming years, as the annual volume of water used by industry will increase from 752 km³ per year in 1995 to 1,170 km³ per year in 2025, or about 24% of total freshwater withdrawals.

Consequences of water consumption in industry

The intensive and unsustainable use of water in industry has negative consequences for the environment, which can be summarized as follows:

Water scarcity and stress

The demand for water from industry is growing every year, putting pressure on the availability and quality of the resource. In fact, according to another UNESCO report, if no action is taken, the planet will face a 40% global water deficit by 2030. In addition, climate change aggravates the situation by causing droughts, floods and alterations in the hydrological cycle.

Contamination and deterioration of water quality

Industrial activity generates a considerable amount of wastewater, which may contain a variety of harmful substances such as chemicals, organic matter, heavy metals, microorganisms and even radioactive materials. These contaminants pose a threat to both human health and aquatic ecosystems.

According to data provided by the National Water Commission (CNA), the pollution generated by the industry is equivalent to that produced by more than 100 million inhabitants. This fact highlights the magnitude of the impact that industrial activity has on water resources.

Alteration of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity

Water consumption in industry can cause:

  • Modification or destruction of natural habitats.
  • Reduction or disappearance of species, alteration of flows and river flows. Decrease in water table levels
  • Salinization or acidification of water.

All of this affects the ecological balance and environmental services provided by aquatic ecosystems. Against this backdrop, the industry needs to adopt measures to reduce its water consumption and minimize its environmental impact.

Measures to reduce your water consumption in industry

Implement more efficient and cleaner technologies.

One way to reduce water use in industry is to implement technologies that optimize production processes. These technologies can have the following benefits:

  • Save water by reducing its demand or loss.
  • Reuse or recycle water used in different stages of the process.
  • Reduce or eliminate pollutants generated or discharged to water.
  • Take advantage of alternative sources of water, such as rain, sea or gray water, which is the water that comes from sinks, showers or washing machines.
  • Generate energy from water, either by means of hydraulic turbines, fuel cells or electrolysis.

A clear example of efficient technology is the hygroscopic cycle (HCT), which uses ambient air to condense the water vapor generated in various industrial processes. This cycle is successfully applied in two cases:

  1. Steam condensation cycles.
  2. Plume reduction and water recovery.

Thanks to the hygroscopic cycle, up to 95% of the water that would be lost to the atmosphere as vapor can be recovered. This water, after appropriate treatment, can be reused for industrial, agricultural or domestic purposes.

2. Enforce environmental regulations and standards

A key aspect for the sustainable use of water in industry is compliance with current legislation and international agreements on this resource. These establish the quality and safety criteria to be followed to avoid contamination and waste. In addition to complying with the law, the industry can adopt environmental certification or labeling systems that demonstrate its commitment to the environment and give it a competitive advantage.

3. Promote social responsibility and awareness.

The industry can involve its workers, suppliers, customers and society in general in the protection and care of water through training, information, participation and transparency. Thus, it can contribute to creating a water culture that values this resource as a common good and a human right.

Conclusion

Water is a vital resource for life and the development of industries, but its use involves a series of challenges and consequences. Industries must overcome the economic, social, logistical and technical obstacles to sustainable water use.

They must also reduce the water footprint generated by their activities, both globally and locally, to avoid the deterioration of ecosystems and water scarcity.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to adopt measures that promote water conservation, efficiency and protection. These measures may include the use of innovative technologies, the implementation of appropriate policies, awareness raising and stakeholder engagement, among others. One example of these measures is the hygroscopic cycle, which makes it possible to recover or significantly reduce the consumption of this precious commodity.