For each of the EU2020 targets, water is, without doubt, an essential resource element be it in terms of competitiveness of industry or in terms of sustainable development. So far, European citizens have not been confronted with severe water shortages, but as the demand on water increases and the global climate changes, Europe is becoming increasingly susceptible. The balance between water demand and availability has already reached a critical level in many areas of Europe.
The key water challenges in Europe are:
- Scarcity of water as a resource
- The water / energy nexus
- Unsustainable waste water treatment (including pollution)
- The need for water for making the bio-based economy and the development of eco-industries happen in Europe
The Chemical Industry plays an important role in the whole water cycle due to its position being, on one hand, one of the biggest water-consuming industries, and, on the other hand, one of the biggest providers of water treatment materials and technologies. The industry’s commitment to the water topic and efforts to address its challenges are clear through its track record of supporting projects through SusChem and the WssTP.
These projects include the FP7 Coordination and Support Action ‘Coordinating European Strategies on Sustainable Materials, Processes and Emerging Technologies Development in Chemical Process and Water Industry across Technology Platforms’ (ChemWater) launched in May 2011 and the FP7 project ‘Economically and Ecologically Efficient Water Management in the European Chemical Industry’ (E4Water). This project to be finalised soon aims to create a breakthrough in industrial water treatment by enhancing its reuse, recycling and valorisation.
Water is used intensively by many different sectors: Agriculture-Urban-Industry, which makes water management, on the one hand, a challenging subject that cannot be tackled by one sector alone, and on the other hand an opportunity for Europe to establish a leadership position in this domain.
There is a need for a symbiotic approach with two axes. Water quality and water quantity. The symbiotic approach includes reuse, waste water treatment, and recovery of raw materials from water that can be used as feedstock for other processes/ industries.
The Water Quality axis includes sustainable water production of the “right quality” for the “right use” (i.e. urban, industry and agriculture) and Sustainable waste water management. In this area examples of chemical industry contributions include more performing/ efficient chemically-enabled technologies with reduced environmental and energy impact such as:
- Products for water purification technologies including new membrane technologies
- Chemical and physical treatments, including seawater desalination
- Elimination of water pollutants like phosphates and nitrates
- Reducing water consumption through new design of processes that demand less water
- New sustainable cooling systems without water
- Internal recycling and reuse (Resource Efficiency PPP- REP)
- Reducing the use of fresh/drinking water resources (sustainable use of alternative sources such as desalination, waste water from urban areas, etc.)
- Waste water treatment and management.
Underlying the whole approach is improved innovation. In times of major challenges for our economies and societies, innovation is highlighted as one of the efficient tools to achieve the ambitious targets of a smart, sustainable, competitive and inclusive Europe. As captured by the Innovation Union, Innovation is much more than research. It is about exploiting knowledge and ideas into solutions for the whole of society. This is the reason why the chemical and process industry noted with great interest the change in European policy to complement research policies with the European Innovation Partnerships that are supposed to embody this new understanding for the European initiatives and will bring it back in the global competitiveness and sustainable development race.
To find out more on SusChem's work on 'Rethinking Water' contact Antonia Morales Perez at Cefic.