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Can More Be Done for Water Efficiency in the Automotive Industry?

by Leanne Hersey

driving-933281_1920The automotive industry is a major consumer of water. According to some estimates, producing a car uses an astonishing 40,000 gallons of water. Water is used in nearly every stage of the auto manufacturing but the heaviest users are the metal finishing, boiler feed, paint/coatings shops and cooling tower makeup processes.

The good news is that water use over the last decade has decreased significantly. We’ve seen top performing auto manufacturers set water efficiency goals as low as 1 m3 per unit. In order to reach these sustainability goals, organizations identify water use inefficiencies and systematically address them. Recommended actions can include everything from installing flow restrictions on supply lines and implementing dry sweeping before hosing to more aggressive (more expensive) projects such as recovering water from a critical rinse stage and reusing it in a less critical rinse stage. Other possibilities include moving towards closed-loop water systems, installing rain tanks, treating wastewater for reuse and even harvesting storm water. These are all laudable measures to take but more can be done. Many large industrial water users are not aware that the water purification equipment they have may actually be the principal water use offender.


As we look towards implementing new water saving strategies – we may be overlooking the elephant in the room. If your facility is using reverse osmosis (chances are good, considering 70% of U.S. based manufacturing uses reverse osmosis) than you’re very likely using a technology that’s from the 1970s. Reverse osmosis hasn’t really kept up with the times and therefore the operational KPIs associated with your reverse osmosis system are also outdated. Since most of the reverse osmosis systems sold are your typical 2 stage and 3 stage traditional systems – it’s easy to think that this is the benchmark. But new(er) RO processes such a CCRO offer a whole new way to operate reverse osmosis, leading to advancements that most industrial reverse osmosis owners and operators haven’t even dreamed of. This type of introspection has saved many of our clients a lot of headaches and a lot of costs.

In fact, this is the smartest choice a facility can make first as the dent in water and cost savings is great, it allows for budget to implement even more unique ways to save water.

If you would like to learn more about today's Key Performance Indicators for Industrial Reverse Osmosis, click here.

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