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Water management is key to the automotive sector’s sustainability

  • Water management is key to the automotive sector’s sustainability
  • Automotive manufacturers use thousands of litres of water each day – making this an ideal cost-saving and sustainability focus.

About the blog

Chris Ashmore
General Manager at Watericon Group of Companies.
ACCIONA

We’re all familiar with topics such as electric motors, CO2 emission reduction and lightweight construction as key issues for the automotive sector, but what about water?

More and more, water conservation is becoming an important issue in sustainable vehicle manufacturing – not to mention the cost savings associated with sustainable water usage.

Around the world, automotive manufacturers and suppliers are collaborating in their efforts to improve the environmental performance of their organisations.

According to the World Water Council, there is a global water crisis today – but it isn’t because there is too little water available to satisfy our needs. Instead, it’s a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people – and the environment – are suffering. For industries that use a lot of water in their manufacturing processes, this is an ideal way to improve the overall sustainability of the business.

Water consumption in automotive manufacturing

Unfortunately, the true cost of using water is often misunderstood across industries, resulting in poor management choices regarding how water is used and treated.

For example, the automotive sector is a major consumer of water, which is a critical component in various production processes, including paint spray booths, surface treatment and coating, hosing, rinsing and washing.

Of the various automotive production processes that use water, metal finishing operations are notorious for high water consumption, but it is in the paint shop that water consumption is most significant. The painting process itself uses considerable volumes water, and processing equipment used for automotive coatings must be cleaned regularly.

In addition to the use of water for these processes, there is also the matter of wastewater, which needs to be treated to high standards in order to meet environmental regulations.

So, how do automotive manufacturing plants ensure sustainability, improve their environmental footprint and save costs when their processes rely on thousands of litres of water each day?

Reducing waste, re-using water and saving costs

Watericon is a South African-based water treatment company that provides a full range of water treatment services for the industrial, municipal and residential sectors.

Specifically, Watericon assists its customers in the automotive industry to become more sustainable, while simultaneously saving on costs and allowing them to focus on what they do best.

For example, one manufacturer’s plant used municipal water as a rinse water source in its paint shop (Zone 11) However, effluent from a different part of the plant (Zone 8) was not utilised, resulting in wasted water that could be reclaimed.

Watericon’s solution was to build a water treatment plant that could treat the effluent water from Zone 8, so that this water could then be used as supply rinse water to Zone 11. This eliminated the use of municipal supply in the circuit, reducing water costs and boosting sustainability be reclaiming and reusing wastewater.

Similarly, a competitor’s plant generates a noticeable volume of paint water effluent which, if left untreated, is unsuitable for re-use.

The solution was to build a water treatment plant to treat the paint water effluent to a level where it becomes suitable for use in the existing reverse osmosis unit, thus eliminating the need for municipal water.

Since implementing the new treatment system, the plant has had the benefit of re-using the treated paint water effluent, a decreased reliance on municipal water usage and decreased effluent disposal costs.

“Each of our solutions are custom-built for the needs of the specific plant,” explains Watericon GM, Chris Ashmore. “Our goal is to ensure more sustainable water practices, which impact the overall environmental footprint of our customers’ plants while reducing costs and ensuring more responsible water usage. Given the water restrictions that south Africa regularly faces, these solutions also support consistency in the manufacturing process.”

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