Driving Manufacturing Efficiency Through Water Boreholes

Driving Manufacturing Efficiency Through Water Boreholes
Driving Manufacturing Efficiency Through Water Boreholes

Operational costs are an ever-present focus for manufacturers, as they look to reduce wastage, drive efficiencies and ultimately, become more sustainable in these areas.

The pandemic has only shone further light on this, impacting demand, production, delivery and, of course, costs.

Perhaps the biggest driver in all of this has been the increased emphasis placed on manufacturers, particular food manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms and more–those deemed most essential during the COVID-19 crisis and those which experienced such as vast ramp up in production in the past 12 months.

Here, the role of water use makes its play. Once deemed a natural and ever-flowing resource, it is estimated by the UN that over 700m worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

Couple this with the fact that manufacturing accounts for almost 25% of global freshwater withdrawals, and the objective becomes clear: smart action coupled with smart solutions are needed for manufacturing to contribute to a more sustainable world.

But it’s not just environmental goals. Utility costs too, are only increasing, so alternative methods to fresh water supply must be presented as viable operations for 21st century manufacturing.

Here, Martin Smith, MD at adi Environmental, part of the multi-disciplinary engineering business adi Group, discusses how manufacturers can benefit from the use of water boreholes, as they seek to drive down costs and go green amidst an economic crisis.

The cost of water

We’ve almost become accustomed as a society to turning the tap and a rich and chemically treated resource ever-flows into our sinks–a basic human necessity that is needed at a core level to survive.

For manufacturers too, there is some element of this notion at play. Water is needed in vast quantities, particular within the food sector, both as an ingredient, as well as within processing operations, such as heating and refrigeration.

Then there’s the market for water treatment, which is set to grow by more than 5% by 2024.

But utility costs can throw in a spanner in the works. On average, it is estimated that gas, water and electricity can represent as much as 30% of a manufacturer’s budget.

Economically, mains water supply in the UK can cost on average around £1.30/m3, but there is huge capital investment on top of this: storage, distribution, chemicals and power needed for water treatment, not to mention the costs of disposing the water you’ve used. Closer then, we’re looking at about £4.30/m3.

Regulatory standards too only add to the pressure, as well as increasing imperatives to drive water efficiency. UN Sustainable Development Goals, on increasing the recycling and safe reuse of water globally, has seen some of the world’s top brands held more accountable to their day-to-day operational wastage.

Driving efficiency

Managing water use in today’s market means not just a desire, but a key necessity to operational survival and environmental commitments. But while many manufacturers believe they must rely on mains water supplies, innovative alternative sources are bearing more fruit in today’s climate. Water boreholes are just one of the fresh approaches that the manufacturing industry is waking up to the benefits to.

The process involves drilling down into the ground to access water, typically deep beneath soil and other natural elements of the earth. Once the hole has been drilled, it is cased with steel and a borehole pumping system is typically added to collect the natural water and pump it to the surface.

The advantages are almost immediately clear: your own private, and crucially, free to use supply. Delivering up to 20,000 litres of a water day, there is no additional charge for the water, outside of the initial installation work. Manufacturers just need to consider an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency if their use leans more to the heavier side of the scale.

Boreholes in practice

At adi, we have seen the benefits of water boreholes first-hand. Working with Harper Adams University in Newport, we were tasked with providing a water treatment package to remove iron and manganese from their water supply to comply with drinking water regulations.

Their facilities already used borehole water for all requirements across the campus, however a new borehole was required with a new water treatment plant room.

Older systems relied on very large surface area sand filters to enable effective treatment, particularly for the required flow of 40,000 litres per hour. Using innovative filter media, we were able to significantly reduce the size and cost of the new plant, with less water consumption for backwashing, less wastewater costs, and energy savings for our customer.

Big brands too, have also jumped on board with the borehole revolution. Thatchers Cider is just one of a number of food and drink producers that have implemented the process into their manufacturing cycle.

Water is taken from a borehole at their 500-acre Somerset home, which includes an innovative failsafe backup plan: if the capacity of water taken from the borehole is exceeded, technology plays its hand, with automation helping to not only alert but also kick in the mains water supply.

And in times of increased demand, such methods are not just a ‘nice’ backup to have, but can be deemed essential.

Waste water, want not

With an ever-growing population and increased pressure on food producers, it is high time manufacturers across all spaces looked at innovation in water supply. While the resource will ever remain an important part of production, that’s not to say that smart action now can’t reduce its use to enable positive change for our environment, supply chain and operational costs.

About The Author

Martin Smith is an environmental engineering specialist, with over 20 years of experience in driving water efficiency for some of the biggest manufacturers in the world. His current role is MD of adi Environmental, a sustainable conscious arm of the multi-disciplined engineering services firm adi Group. Designing, constructing and self-delivering robust client solutions from over 30 specialist disciplines, the adi Group takes a holistic approach to sustainability, skills and partnership.

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