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Companies interested in adopting a water conservation program should consider undertaking a 5-step process:

Implementation of this strategy will help your company to identify the most cost effective options for water reduction and financial savings. While the best results will be achieved by implementing all 5 actions, they can also be adopted individually.

1. Appoint a water conservation team

Your water conservation team should include people interested in championing the water conservation program, and those that have a detailed understanding of the ways that water is used across the site. This may include area managers as well as consultants involved in plant operations and wastewater treatment. The team could consider inviting external experts to meetings on a regular basis, for example engineers from your water retailer, local government environmental staff and state government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Authority.

2. Investigate how water is being used around the site

The first task of the water conservation team is to gather historical and current water use data from your water retailer. At least a year’s water bills should be collected, as at some sites water use patterns may change during the year, due to changing operational activities. Climatic variations will also effect the amount of water used for activities such as heating and cooling.

 Water use issues and opportunities for savings can be identified by developing a water balance diagram. Similar to a water usage map, a water balance diagram displays water use across the site, by identifying the inputs and outputs of all plant facilities and operations. The water balance diagram should:

  • Identify the key areas or processes in which water is used
  • Identify the water quality requirements of each area of the site
  • Identify volumes of water being consumed and discharged
  • Identify the location of existing metres, or where they are required
Industry chart

An example of a water balance diagram.

Further detail can be added to this diagram, to indicate specific production processes. This will aid in identifying and prioritising options such as altering the production process or retrofitting plant equipment.

3. Install water meters

There are three general types of water meters that can be used in industry.

  • Mains meter
 - This is the meter already installed at the key supply point of the site. Your water retailer uses the meter for billing and supply management purposes.
  • Sub meters
 - These meters are installed at key points around the plant, where water is used. A water balance diagram will help determine the best place to install these devices.
  • Flow meters and temporary devices
 - The efficiency of plant can also be checked using a temporary device. This may be a cheaper way to identify leaks than permanent sub meters.
  • Many meter manufacturers, or specialist contractors, are able to develop metering services to meet your business. These may include electronic logging of data, system linkups (through, for example, radiotelemetry devices) and reporting software. Speak to your local water retailer for advice on sourcing metering systems.

4. Establish goals for water conservation

Setting water conservation goals will enable you to measure and report on the success of your water saving initiatives. They can also be useful in gaining the necessary internal support and commitment to your water conservation program.

The type of goals you set will depend on:

  • The priorities identified by the water conservation team
  • The way in which water is currently used
  • The size and capacity for growth of the business, and
  • The way in which water use is measured on the site.

Water conservation goals could be based on:

  • kL of water used per Unit of product
  • Total kL of water used on the site
  • kL used per square metre
  • Total kL of water saved
  • $ per kL of water used

Goals can be set over a range of timeframes, for example, 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals. Water consumption in a ‘base year’ can be used as a reference point for all goals, or alternatively goals for each financial year can build on the previous year’s performance.

5. Develop and implement water saving initiatives

Water saving initiatives can be identified through brainstorming sessions with the water conservation team, which could involve external expertise where necessary. These sessions can examine best practice approaches

used by similar organisations, industry guidelines and water conservation case studies. Many State Environmental Protection Agencies or equivalent government bodies now have the capacity to support water conservation initiatives through Cleaner Production Programs.

 An important consideration in developing water saving initiatives is determining the most cost effective option. In some cases this can be expressed as a ‘payback period’, which indicates the amount of time required to recoup the capital outlay though savings in water use, pumping costs and chemical reuse.