Water transition in industry

10.06.2021

In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that we are facing drought and climate change. You may no longer fill your swimming pool with (drinking) water in the summer and in some cases we may not even be able to water our crops. “The Netherlands is actually no longer a water country at all.”

“We actually caused this drought ourselves by reclaiming land very well for years,” explains Michiel van der Meer, environmental manager with a focus on water at Bilfinger Tebodin. “But climate change has also played an important role. However, water remains the number one necessity of life so we are becoming increasingly aware of our water usage. The industry must also do their part in this because water use there is enormous.”

Water is also referred to as the ‘blue gold’ in the manufacturing industry, states Van der Meer. “It is very important because water is needed for every process and the biggest problem is that water use is also taken for granted. Most of the water used in the industry simply comes from the tap. The question is whether you really need drinking water quality for all these applications.”

Water is also referred to as the ‘blue gold’ in the manufacturing industry

An important first step is awareness, says Van der Meer. “First of all, we have to start looking at whether we can use less water, but in many cases that is not possible. Then it is important to question taking water for granted. How can we look at this in a future-oriented and sustainable way? For example, by not using drinking water but the effluent from a water purification plant or purified process water from the industry. This may not be drinking water quality, but it is sufficient for process operations. Or, for example, by collecting rainwater within the company grounds and using it in the process. These are important considerations that we need to start making.”

Nevertheless, water is still lagging behind, Van der Meer argues. “Mainly because there is no sound business case yet. The installations required for this are expensive and water from the tap is incredibly cheap. Therefore, to solve these problems, the industry together with government, drinking water companies and local businesses must look for integral ways to make this transition feasible. This is of great social importance and the conscious handling of our water supply plays an important role in the entire optimization and sustainability of the industry.”