Manufacturers can shape solution to mitigate global water crisis

By Patrick Decker President, Tyco Flow Control September 1, 2009

Sustaining global water supplies and quality is one of the most critical issues facing the world today. One third of the world’s population currently lives in countries with moderate to high water stress, with the poor bearing a disproportionate burden. The fact that so many lack access to potable water and adequate sanitation is a tragedy that has severe consequences for human health, education and economic development worldwide.
As manufacturers, we have a responsibility to help shape the solutions that will mitigate this global water crisis. Plant managers can play an especially significant leadership role by building the systems-wide framework for a sustainable future. Each facility’s impact on water depends on the products being manufactured and plant production volume, age and compliance with industry regulation. Certainly no plant can forego water entirely, but we can evaluate each of these areas to better protect this vital resource.
If American homes waste more than one trillion gallons of water per year due to leaks and faulty or old systems, just imagine the amount of water lost on an industrial scale, and conversely the opportunities we can seize to become more efficient and responsible. While the problem is wide and deep, there are fundamental routine operations changes that all plant managers can make immediately that will yield tremendous long-term results. Key steps to streamlining water usage in your facilities include:

  • Monitor and analyze water usage trends at your facility for at least two years, including production rates, seasonal fluctuations and other variables. Create a historical database that will allow you to make sound assessments about your past and future water usage and needs, and collaborate with strategic partners to help disburse the investment of resources.
    • For instance, in 2008 the New South Wales Department of Commerce undertook a water efficiency audit of a Tyco Water facility on behalf of Sydney Water’s‘Every Drop Counts’ Business Program in Australia. The resulting audit report identified at least four tangible water use reduction strategies with a payback period of less than three years and advanced the goals of both Tyco and the municipality.
    • Understand the role water plays in your facility, including what it is being used for and how the various functions in your plant interplay to impact water usage. When you meter water usage, look beyond water bills, at how water usage cuts across multiple departments and buildings.
    • Identify your actual water quality and volume needs by determining where the process must have potable water and where water can be reused. Don’t make any assumptions and be precise – look at how your plant’s infrastructure and processes have changed over time, and how those changes impact your water needs.
    • Invest in efficient water systems and activities where you can. For instance, prioritizing leak detection and repair can have dramatic impacts, saving as much 75,000 gallons per year for a leak measuring just 1/32 inch. This very process has yielded some impressive results for Tyco Flow Control including one plant where we reduced water use by 70%.
      • Our action or inaction around water issues has already had global implications that will continue to affect each of us on a local scale, as safe, clean water becomes ever more scarce. Through action, we have the power to dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of women and children in developing countries, who are responsible for providing water for their families and walk an average of six kilometers each day to do so.
        Better access to clean water could fundamentally change a young woman’s chance to learn, earn a living, support a family and participate in her community. For these reasons, Tyco is dedicated to helping provide water resources to those most vulnerable, so that they can focus on education and the prosperity of their families and communities. We cannot afford to be apathetic.
        Too much is at stake and the decisions we make today – on the internal business processes we implement, the investments in technology and innovation we make, the standards we set and the partnerships we develop – can help build a more sustainable world for tomorrow. At Tyco, through our Climate Resolve program, we have developed an action plan to reduce water use by 25% in the next five years. I encourage all the plant managers to join me in a commitment to sustainable business practices that help solve the world water crisis rather than exacerbate it.

        Patrick Decker
        President, Tyco Flow Control
        Executive Sponsor, Climate Resolve
        Tyco International