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Industrial Water Conservation: Introduction

Industrial Water Conservation: Introduction pengrin™@flickr

California’s Water Conservation Act of 2009 requires water use reduction efforts in the industrial sector, a sector that can easily reduce water use by over one-third by 2020.

Who is classified as an industrial water user? The California Department of Water Resources describes the industrial water sector as: "any water users that are primarily manufacturers or processors of materials..."[1] Generally, you will see commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors grouped together and collectively labeled as "CII". We address the industrial sector separately from the commercial and institutional because industrial water processes provide opportunities for conservation and reuse unique from commercial and institutional. Currently, the industrial sector mainly uses freshwater for its manufacturing needs, which by in large means treated potable water. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) identifies California's top industrial water users as "oil refineries, food processing facilities and high tech manufacture[rs]."[2]

The Water Conservation Act of 2009 calls for a 20% reduction in per capita urban water use (which includes the industrial sector) in California by 2020.[3] The Pacific Institute has estimated that California's industrial sector uses 665,000 acre-feet of water per year, which the industrial sector could potentially reduce by 39%.[4] Based on these values, the industrial sector can go above and beyond the 20% reduction target set by the Water Conservation Act of 2009. One of the reasons the industrial sector has such a high capacity to improve on water conservation is that it can readily reuse the water needed to manufacture goods multiple times before discharging it. Likewise, with the development of water efficient technology, industries can actually reduce the amount of water they need for operation.

Where Does the Industrial Sector's Water Come From?

Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, a valuable freshwater resource in California. impurist@flickr

In 2000, industrial users in California withdrew a total of 202 million gallons of water per day, with 183 million gallons from groundwater sources and 19.3 million gallons from surface water sources. Of these withdraws, 93% were freshwater.[5] The Clean Water Act contains provisions for "wastewater"* treatment that can be costly. These growing costs, along with technological advancements, has influenced industrial users to increase internal water recycling, replacing freshwater withdraws over the past two decades.[6] While this is an improvement, industrial users are not yet reducing their water consumption to the extent necessary to meet the 20% reduction goals by 2020, as stated in The Water Conservation Act of 2009.

*Wholly H2O strongly advocates that there is no such thing as "wastewater" as it implies that water is wasted and cannot be used again. The term "blackwater" is a more apt descriptor.


  1. ^WUE—Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Program. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011.
  2. ^Making Every Drop Work: Increasing Water Efficiency in California’s Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional (CII) Sector. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011
  3. The Water Conservation Act of 2009. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011.
  4. ^Waste Not, Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011.
  5. ^Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011
  6. ^National Handbook of Recommended Methods for Water Data Acquisition. Retrieved on Nov. 30, 2011.