© Diego Cupolo
Keyspan lungs by Diego Cupolo.

It is difficult to imagine any type of industry in which water is not used. Water is used for cleaning, heating and cooling; for generating steam; for transporting dissolved substances or particulates; as a raw material; as a solvent; and as a constituent part of products (as in the beverage industry). The volume of water used by industry is low, constituting less than 10% of total water withdrawals, but industry creates marked pressure on water resources from the impacts of wastewater discharges and their pollution potential than by the quantity used in actual production.

Industrial output has continued to expand, but due to efficiency gains and the energy transition, the level of water withdrawal for industrial use in developed countries has stabilized and even begun to decline in some countries (after rising between 1960 and 1980). 

Industry is an essential engine of economic growth and therefore is key to economic and social progress.  All too often, however, the need to maximize economic output, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, has excluded environmental protection from the planning process. 

The linkage between industry and pollution is not inevitable, though.

It is possible to decouple industrial development from environmental degradation, to radically reduce natural resource and energy consumption and, at the same time, to have clean and profitable industries.

A very wide range of regulatory instruments, voluntary initiatives, training, and advice is available to help industrial managers improve water-use productivity and to reduce polluting emissions to very low levels. These tools can concurrently aid production efficiency, reduce raw material consumption, facilitate recovery of valuable materials and permit a big expansion of reuse/recycling. 


Facts and figures extracted from WWDR3, Water in a Changing World (2009). Click on the links to know more!

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