INDUSTRY consumes large amounts of freshwater for different processes, such as washing, cooling, processing and fabricating, but only a very small fraction of the process water is recycled.
Statistics revealed by German market and consumer data multinational Statista indicate that approximately 4.5 billion litres of water per day were consumed in Malaysia in 2018 for nondomestic use. This accounted for about 40% of the total daily amount of water consumed.
Although water coming out at the end of an industrial process is lower in quality than the water that went into it, this does not mean the discharged water cannot be recycled. In fact, many companies around the world successfully recycle their effluent to reduce the demands on freshwater and to minimise the negative impacts of effluent discharged into the environment.
Metal machining company AAOsteel in Denmark is one good example of practising industrial wastewater recycling. The company reuses 95% of the process water from an alkaline automatic rinsing line for its production process. Besides reducing process water disposal cost, the money invested by the company in treating and recycling the process water was paid back in less than two years.
Some countries in Europe even have national standards or legislation on water reuse as a way to improve water availability through the use of treated wastewater for agricultural irrigation.
Recycling industrial effluent has many benefits for industry as well as the community:
First, recycling effluent is a sustainable approach in addressing the impacts caused by water shortages as a result of prolonged dry seasons. It could also alleviate the effects of unprecedented water supply disruptions caused by water pollution at water treatment plants. Such incidents have, of course, occurred more than once in this country.
Second, wastewater reuse can mitigate the pollutants discharged into the receiving water bodies, which does much good for the environment. Currently, the poor quality of effluents discharged into rivers is one of the main factors causing an increasing the number of rivers in Malaysia to become polluted.
Third, the company with on-site wastewater recycling facilities would be less impacted by possible water tariff hikes in the future. The government has mentioned before the need to increase water tariffs in an effort to improve the water industry’s infrastructure and provide better services to consumers.
Currently, our water tariff is among the lowest globally, but we can’t take for granted that it will remain unchanged forever. Higher tariffs will make people more conscious of the scarcity value of freshwater.
Lastly, the company that takes care of the environment will win the hearts of consumers. Nowa-days, environmental concerns have become an important decision- making determinant for consumers during the process of buying products and services.
Water resources are currently under stress in many parts of the world, including this country. Thus, reusing water from industrial effluent can provide alternatives to the existing water supply and be considered a proactive strategy to enhance water sustainability and security.
ASSOC PROF DR LAU WOEI JYE
School of Chemical and Energy Engineering
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Did you find this article insightful?
100% readers found this article insightful