Industrial water conservation is a difficult topic because water conservation efforts are usually aimed at the general public. And while domestic water consumption is one of the highest water consumption sectors, industry should not be overlooked. Many processes, especially those that involve a lot of cleaning or cooling, like food or textile production, consume staggering amounts of water. It is high time to turn our attention to the industrial conservation efforts, one of which is brilliantly simple – rainwater harvesting. It seems like an obvious solution – make sure the water that falls from the sky for free is put to use. But industrial or commercial facilities that have rainwater harvesting equipment are few and far between. Rainwater is basically water distilled by the sun, that is condensed in the sky, producing rainfall as a result. This makes rainwater one of the safest natural sources of fresh, clean water. The problem is, it usually hits the roof of a building before it can be harvested, and the roof itself is what introduces dirt and bacteria into rainwater. Thus, some have dismissed it. Why invest in rainwater harvesting infrastructure when municipal water is of a higher quality and needs no up-front cost?
But capturing rainwater even in regions where shortages are seasonal can mean huge benefits for all. Drought is becoming increasingly likely even in regions where the problem used to be negligible. The cost of designing rainwater harvesting into the building might seem high, but if no water conservation measures are taken, water supply could run so low that the authorities cut water supply to all non-essential consumers. The cost of downtime due to drought could be huge. Having a rainwater storage solution will help reduce that risk. Using rainwater regularly, instead of municipal water, reduces the risk of water shortage, as well as the risk of a steep rise in the price of water.
The usual argument against rainwater is its purity, especially in an urban and industrialized area. Areas with heavy air pollution and smog will have contaminants in the water, albeit not in highly toxic. But industrial buildings and even office buildings can benefit from rainwater in real ways. For example, any facility that has a cooling system heavily reliant on water as its primary coolant can use rainwater. Any rainwater harvesting system will have even a rudimentary filtration system, so the resulting water poses no threat to cooling equipment. This is a great way not only to conserve water in areas of water shortage, but also to save money in regions where precipitation is abundant. Data centers, for example, may have water cooling as a primary cooling method. This helps data centers achieve a smaller physical footprint while maintaining the same performance as their aircooled counterparts. Given how much water they consume for cooling, rainwater harvesting is a no brainer. This won’t be the water that is in direct contact with sensitive equipment, but it can be used in the heat exchanger that draws heat from the equipment coolant and disperses that heat into the environment.
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