Going with the effluent flow

Bob Tolley offers an overview of the impacts of new water and effluent regulations and costs on industrial installations.

It is estimated that the value of manufacturing output accounts for around one quarter of the UK Gross Domestic Product, itself amounting to approximately £3Bn per annum.

Presently one per cent of industrial turnover – some £30M – is spent each year by industry on water and its treatment and disposal.

As the UK water industry completes and submits its business plans for the period from 2005 to 2010, to the Water Industry Regulator, OFWAT – as part of the current price review (PR04), – many commentators are speculating as to the effects that the decisions made will have on costs to industry.

The industry association, Water UK, is suggesting that a proportion of the costs of maintaining the water and waste infrastructure should be passed on to the consumer through an increase in charges in the region of 10 per cent above the rate of inflation. Whilst the Regulator accepted that customer charges might increase, his broader view is that the costs of developing and maintaining both the infrastructure and the environment should be funded from shareholders’ income.

Whilst the debate concerning the level of costs to be passed onto domestic consumers will progress as OFWAT deliberates over the water companies’ plans, it is the effect that industry and commerce will have to bear that is of greater interest.

Concurrent to the introduction of new pricing structures, the water companies are required to publish their responses to the requirements as laid down in AMP4 – the Appraisal Methodology for Water Company Proposals for Drinking Water Quality Improvement Schemes.

Management tool


n the broadest of terms, AMP is the management tool for the compliance with the European ‘Drinking Water Directive’ which, in turn is incorporated into government policy as a series of Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations separately formulated for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Regulations specify the targets to which the water companies must adhere in terms of the levels of pollutants such as nitrates, pesticides, iron and manganese, and water-borne pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium, in the water supply.

Whilst nature itself generates a limited level of pollution of the water supply, by far the greatest contributor is industry, be this from manufacturing and processing, from agriculture or from the discharge of ‘dirty’ water from support activities such as cleaning, sanitation, heating and ventilation or similar activities.

As the water treatment companies are expected to meet increasingly stringent standards of water supply, there is an equally strict regime covering the discharges that industry is permitted to return to the sewage network.

To meet such demands and to control the level of expenditure, more and more organisations are reviewing their policies and practices both with regard to water consumption and sewage treatment and discharge.

High standards

Currently, most of the water supplied to industrial complexes is treated to drinking water quality standards, albeit a significant proportion is used in utility applications such as cooling, washing or fire fighting. Many of these processes could be carried out just as effectively using lower grade water, however there are many issues associated with its more widespread use.

The Sustainable Water Use Project, sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry and supported by industrial partners based in Grangemouth and Merseyside, brought together major water users, water suppliers, waste treatment companies and environmental regulators to examine the issues and identify opportunities.

A number of common themes emerged from the individual sites with regard to the patterns of water use and opportunities for minimisation. Effluent disposal costs were identified as a significant part of the total utilities bill for each site and a combination of segregated pre-treatment options and optimisation of on-site effluent treatment was shown to be a method by which costs could be significantly reduced.

Water consumption

With the need for a new approach to water consumption, recycling and pre-discharge treatment becoming an increasing important agenda item for boardroom consideration, the timing of the International Water and Effluent Equipment (IWEX) Exhibition, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from 11-13 November 2003 could not be better.

On display at the exhibition will be an array of products, technology and services designed to address the increasing demands on industry in terms of both cost and practice. Concurrent to the exhibition will be a seminar and conference programme where key issues relating to industrial treatment of wastewater will be discussed, giving delegates the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others who have already initiated plans to both meet new regulations and reduce expenditure.

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