The power generation sector responsible for generating electricity uses massive amounts of water, and the use of grey water is significantly increasing in this market.
Other heavy industries such as mining, refining and petrochemical industries also face water challenges which are heavily impacted by local conditions such as state water discharge regulations, local water scarcity, proximity to other industrial facilities that use the same water sources, and contaminants in the water. Energy and water are inseparably connected.
Energy production uses a great deal of water at some point in production, whether it is during the extraction of raw materials or other processes.
These most energy-intensive applications and processes include:
- Oil and gas production and refining
- Coal-fired power generation
- Nuclear power generation
- Cooling in thermal processes
- Irrigation in the cultivation of crops for biofuels
- Powering turbines for hydropower
As the demand for energy increases, it could lead to an approximate 80 % increase in water consumption by the sector; this could result in as much as a 35% shortfall between supply and demand by 2035.
Mining and extractive industries operations utilise water for mineral processing, metal recovery and dust control, therefore they put innovative processes in place to reuse and recycle the water they use. These industries must ensure that they are not depleting or polluting local water resources on which local communities and other businesses rely.
Rules in these industries are often very rigid and water quality is monitored closely; efficient water management is vital to the viability and acceptance of modern mining operation and to secure water extraction and other necessary regulations.
Ethanol producers also face challenges due to the fact that it takes between 3 and 5 litres of water to produce 1 litre of ethanol. Facilities in this growing industry are therefore seeking alternative water sources and implementing water reuse and recycling practices.
Beverage production and agriculture also face very tough water challenges, as do the pharmaceutical industry and the automotive industry.