IG-R-1: Intensity of water consumption in the manufacturing sector

The picture shows a machine on which a wet and steaming strip of paper is pulled over a conveyor belt.Click to enlarge
Industries such as the chemical and paper industries need a lot of water for production processes.
Source: Photograph: © hgoldenporshe / stock.adobe.com

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents

 

IG-R-1: Intensity of water consumption in the manufacturing sector

Water-efficient enterprises are better equipped to cope with the impacts of climate change. Since the 1990s, the use of water in the manufacturing sector has shown a significant decline, i.e. a clearly falling trend. Since 2000, there has also been a declining trend in the intensity of water consumption, i.e. it was possible to increase the creation of added value while using the same amount of water.

The line graph depicts the water use from 1991 to 2016 and the water intensity of the manufacturing sector from 2000 to 2016 in the form of values indexed to the year 2000 at 100.  Water use shows a significant downward trend.
IG-R-1: Intensity of water consumption in the manufacturing sector

The line graph depicts the water use from 1991 to 2016 and the water intensity of the manufacturing sector from 2000 to 2016 in the form of values indexed to the year 2000 at 100. Water use shows a significant downward trend.

Source: StBA (environmental-economic accounting)
 

Intensity of water consumption in the manufacturing sector

As a matter of principle, any thermal discharge from manufacturing or processing plants into water bodies is subject to the same legal regulations as energy plants. Therefore, manufacturing and processing companies may encounter situations where they have to decrease their thermal discharge thus reducing their output in order to comply with the discharge conditions laid down in their licence. This occurred, for example, in the hot summers of 2003, 2006 and 2018, when owing to prolonged heat and drought, restrictions were imposed on thermal discharge into various water bodies.

Changed climatic conditions may result in such dry and hot phases occurring more frequently in future, becoming more intensive and lasting longer. It is therefore expected that in the summer months, temperatures in watercourses will rise in the long term and flow rates will decrease. It is likely that situations will occur more frequently where feeding back used coolant water into watercourses or the abstraction of water for cooling purposes will be permitted only in limited amounts. Industrial processes that are largely independent of water resources are better equipped for the impacts of climate change than processes which require a lot of water. In order to use as little water as possible for raw or processing material, and in order to use the abstracted water as efficiently as possible, companies might for instance consider embracing an in-house water management system, using water in a circulatory system, employing water-saving technologies or using other substances such as emulsions instead of water.

An important starting point for the manufacturing sector is, above all, the economical use of coolant water in production processes and in the process of in-house electricity generation. This is because the use of coolant water accounts for approximately three quarters of the sector’s total water consumption. Besides, the abstraction of water for refrigeration purposes and the discharge of used coolant water are subject to temperature-related regulations which may lead to restrictions being imposed on production during hot summer months. The abstraction of water for production-specific or personnel-related purposes, however, is less dependent on temperatures.

Between 2000 and 2016 water consumption declined in the manufacturing sector by approximately 27 % overall. In 2016, the intensity of water consumption in many parts of the manufacturing sector was also distinctly below the value recorded for 2000, i.e. it was lower by on average 45 %.

This means that it was possible to attain a considerable increase in the efficiency of water use and that the lower consumption of water achieved greater added value. The strongest decline in water use and intensity of consumption was observed in the manufacture of chemical and pharmaceutical products as well as food production. A distinct increase, however, was noted in respect of manufacturing processes in the paper industry.

 

Interfaces

WW-I-1: Groundwater level

WW-I-4: Low water

WW-R-1: Water use index

LW-R-6: Agricultural irrigation

EW-R-4: Water efficiency of thermal power plants

 

Objectives

Considering technical methods and enhancements to achieve more efficient use of water, e.g. by using greywater, rainwater captured from roofs, or process water for technical and industrial purposes or by enhancing water-saving methods (DAS, ch. 3.2.3)

Promoting sustainable water use on the basis of longterm conservation of extant resources (WFD, Art. 1(b))

Obtaining commitments to exercise the appropriate caution when implementing measures that may impact on water bodies, in order to safeguard the economical use of water as required for the conservation of a healthy water regime (WHG, § 5 (1) 2)

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 adaptation to climate change  KomPass  monitoring report  water efficiency  water intensity  water use