Management of water supply has become a challenging task owing to population growth, expansion in industrial and agricultural activities, changing climate scenarios, rapidly depleting water resources, and deteriorating infrastructure and water quality. Over the past few decades, India has witnessed a rapid increase in its urban population. At present, over 30 per cent of the country’s population lives in urban areas and is increasingly facing water scarcity. The industrial water requirement has increased significantly and is next only to municipal and irrigation needs. Heavy industries such as power, iron and steel and oil refineries and others such as sugar, textiles, and pulp and paper are the major consumers. Steady growth in these sectors over the past few years has driven up the demand for water.
To ensure sustainable availability of fresh water, measures to improve water use efficiency and reduce the water footprint are being taken by industries. There have also been positive developments on the technology front. Industrial units are shifting to advanced membrane-based technologies to improve treatment capabilities, reduce dependence on freshwater resources, and manage operational costs. More recently, a new technology – zero liquid discharge – has gained prominence.
Water management measures by key industries
Given the restrictions on water extraction in some regions, industries are exploring alternative sources of water such as recycled wastewater and desalination water. A number of urban local bodies are supplying secondary treated wastewater to industries for non-potable purposes. Also, the option of setting up tertiary treatment facilities with financial support from industries is being explored. Desalination is another economically viable solution adopted by several companies.
On the regulation front, the sector will need increased scrutiny on discharged effluents, stricter enforcement of laws, a robust institutional structure, and adequate water pricing.
Reliance Industries Limited
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has adopted a comprehensive and climate-conscious approach to address water-related risks. The amount of water withdrawn, disposed and recycled across the company’s operations is managed and monitored. To lower the dependence on fresh water, the company has taken proactive initiatives to recycle water utilising cutting-edge technologies. Treated effluents are repurposed in cooling towers, horticulture and firewater networks. RIL’s world-class desalination unit at its Jamnagar plant demonstrates the company’s commitment to developing sustainable water sources.
In a bid to create sustainable value, JSW Energy is placing importance on efficient utilisation of natural resources such as water and hydropower. Most of JSW Energy’s sites run in a region that is classified as “water stressed”. Hence, the company’s goal is to minimise the use of water. It is ensuring this by checking the volumes of water their plants are consuming on a regular basis. JSW Energy consumed 23.69 million kilolitres (kl) of water during 2020-21, recording a decrease of 25.69 per cent from 2018-19 when water consumption stood at 31.88 million kl. Further, the company’s Barmer plant achieved excellence in its effluent treatment plant (ETP) operation, wherein the high concentrated cooling tower blowdown and other wastewater generated in the plant is treated in its ETP. The treated water is sent to the plant and the rejected water is used for horticulture.
Operating in a water-intensive sector, NTPC has taken several initiatives to reduce water consumption during plant operations. For the first time, NTPC deployed an air-cooled condenser system at the North Karanpura STPP and the Patratu STPP, which will significantly reduce the specific water consumption in these plants. NTPC is also moving ahead with floating solar installations on reservoirs of its projects, which will save land and conserve water by reducing water surface evaporation. NTPC has also taken active steps to use treated sewage water from sewage treatment plants (STPs) of nearby municipal bodies to meet the bulk water needs of its power plants, replacing precious fresh water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs and dams meant for other priority uses such as agriculture, drinking, pisciculture and water body preservation. Treated sewage water will be used for condenser cooling water system makeup for NTPC’s power stations falling within a 50-km distance. This meets the closeness criteria notified in the Tariff Notification of the Government of India on January 28, 2016.
As part of its water management strategy, the Alamo Group shipped 1.09 cubic metres of water used per metric tonne in 2019, followed by 1.10 cubic metres of water used per metric tonne in 2020. In order to meet its new aim, it will ship 1 cubic metres of water used per metric tonne by 2025.
Tata Steel is taking a leadership role in water conservation and reduction of its water impact. While the capacity of its Jamshedpur operations has more than doubled, from 5 million tonnes to 11 million tonnes, during the last decade, its freshwater use has decreased by 62 per cent in the past six years. The regeneration of the CRM Bara Pond in Jamshedpur’s Bara neighbourhood acts as a source of rainwater harvesting, storing 82,320 m3 of rainfall, reducing pollution and contributing to the area’s biodiversity. The groundwater table has risen as a result of the project’s implementation. Tata Steel’s commitment to sustainability has resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in freshwater usage in Jamshedpur over the previous decade. The company’s ambitions to revitalise the Steel City’s waterbodies will not only aid in water harvesting but will also help minimise water pollution in the coming years.
To minimise the reliance on groundwater and the use of freshwater, Ankur Textiles worked with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and treats 1,500 litres of raw sewage daily at Ankur’s STP.
Arvind Limited and global apparel retailer Gap Inc. have partnered to establish an innovation centre for promoting proven techniques and technologies that help the textile production industry conserve water. Arvind and Gap are also investing in a new water treatment facility in Ahmedabad, which will eliminate the need for freshwater at Arvind’s denim mill. The facility will treat domestic wastewater collected from the local neighbourhood using membrane bioreactor technology, which eliminates the need for chemical treatment. At present, the mill consumes approximately 8 million litres of freshwater every day. Apart from reducing the denim mill’s reliance on freshwater, the facility will mitigate business risk for Arvind, Gap and other brands that source from the mill by addressing the water scarcity concerns. By the end of 2020-21, approximately 3 billion litres of fresh water will be saved.
Other initiatives include installing pressure transducers in the water supply system and linking them to an inverter-drive pump to maintain optimal water supply pressure, which results in annual water savings of 40,000 kl; reusing condensate water at the boiler, which results in annual heat energy savings of 674 kCal; reducing unnecessary water use followed by corrective action; implementing steam condensate recycling in a variety of locations to help minimise water and steam consumption; and recycling 120 litres of water every day, which was utilised to cool machines in the processing area.
Sterlite Technologies Limited
Sterlite Technologies Limited (STL) is investigating creative techniques that promote circular use of this precious natural resource by appropriately treating wastewater for groundwater recharge, saving water, enabling access to clean and safe drinking water, utilising treated water for afforestation and agriculture, and sensitising stakeholders in communities and within STL through engagement programmes aimed at promoting responsible use.
Hindustan Zinc, a Vedanta Group affiliate, has been designated a water positive firm. The company has sought to ensure sustainability of water supply by focusing on water conservation. HZL owns and operates state-of-the-art effluent treatment plants and recycling facilities, STPs and water storage facilities, and has increased water vigilance, all of which contribute significantly to its water management efforts. To ensure the safety and purity of water, RO plants are being installed as a part of the model project, which will deliver 1,000 LPH (litre per hour) of pure water. Water ATMs have also been installed in some locations, allowing villagers to obtain pure water at an affordable cost. In some regions where a reliable source of clean water is unavailable, water is distributed by water tankers. Eight RO plants and 17 ATMs have been established so far. These provide fresh water to 3,200 families in 25 villages. Five additional RO plants and 22 ATMs will be installed in Debari, Dariba and Chanderiya villages in the following years. The development and protection of alternative drinking water sources is critical and protecting reservoirs from sewage is critical in Udaipur. To this end, Hindustan Zinc set up an STP in Udaipur in 2014, in conjunction with the Municipal Corporation of Udaipur. The STP has a capacity of 20 mld and is the first-of-its-type in Rajasthan.
Grundfos identified two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its key goals in 2016. Since then, it has been working on a global scale to contribute to SDG 6, which aims to “ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, as well as SDG 13, which addresses climate change. It intends to conserve about 50 billion cubic metres of fresh water by 2030 and to actively contribute to the provision of safe drinking water to 300 million people. Grundfos India worked with the NGO, Hand in Hand, in 2019 to offer safe drinking water to Thiruvanai Koil village in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. Over 250 houses were directly impacted by the drinking water system. Families in Thiruvanai Koil were able to save an average of 40 minutes every day. In the same year, it began another drinking water project, which resulted in the provision of drinking water to about 1,450 villages in Tamil Nadu’s Maiyur Panchayat. The locals were largely labourers, who travelled close to 2 km each day to obtain water for their daily use. The solution included a bore well, a solar-powered pump and a storage tank. This initiative has substantially helped in reducing the reliance on external sources and instilling a sense of sustainability in the community.