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ESG Credits Through Water Treatment Investment

Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance (ESG) is much more than just a hot catchphrase in today’s economic environment. It has become a top priority of corporate shareholders and includes values shown in the below chart.

While all are equally important, the two values in bold stand out when it comes to climate-conscious decision making. Our planet has a finite amount of available resources and conserving them with operational transparency helps sustain both your facility and community. Among these resources is water, which in the US presents an exceptionally relevant challenge due to aging infrastructure and growing freshwater scarcity. Treating it at your facility can have the following benefits:

      • Allow for lower, predictable water/wastewater costs
      • Reduce your carbon footprint through the use of newer technology
      • Reduce operational, regulatory and reputational risk
      • Earn your company ESG credits through the Alliance for Water Stewardship
      • Contribute to the UN General Assembly’s SDG Goal 6

Starting with the first mentioned benefit (Allow for lower, predictable water/wastewater costs), there is tremendous uncertainty regarding how much longer America’s aging utilities can be maintained without requiring complete retrofits. Even as they continue to operate, freshwater/wastewater rates have risen over 65% over the last decade and show no signs of slowing¹. And as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, upstream supply chain volatility can become a huge headache for manufacturing companies without contingency plans². Having a well-designed water treatment plant at your facility will alleviate water cost variability and potentially save you thousands per month in future freshwater/wastewater charges. Additionally, such projects can be eligible for grants from state or federal entities when implementing decentralized technologies like Aquatech’s BioMOD™.

The second benefit (Reduce your carbon footprint through the use of newer technology) requires a bit more analysis into your current situation but can result in highly valuable carbon offset credits if executed correctly. The basic logic behind getting carbon credits from water treatment plants is two-fold:

      1. Systems like BioMOD™ MBBR and MBR can fit into compact treatment packages, use less energy than competing solutions. In the case of retrofits, you are lowering greenhouse emissions through use of less equipment material, potentially less CO emissions and lower energy use.

      2. A much more direct application of water treatment for carbon-offsets comes from retrofitting anaerobic lagoons³. This widely used technology is a top emission source for light industry manufacturers, but can be replaced with newer treatment technologies like Aquatech’s BioMOD™ EGSB.

The third listed benefit of well-designed water treatment (Reduce operational, regulatory and reputational risk) centers around mitigation of overall facility risk. While many plant managers tend to focus on short-term financial risk when purchasing or leasing a system, it’s prudent to conduct an overall cost-benefit analysis of a system as well. This principle holds especially true for water treatment due to the risks related to operation, regulation and reputation that it can prevent. Some notes on these risks below:

      • When considering operational risk, ask yourself the question “Where will I get my water if my local POTW stopped working tomorrow?” After all, the most expensive water for your facility is no water.

      • Regulatory risk is especially relevant in 2021. The Navigable Waters Act and other federal mandates will likely change in unpredictable ways based on the Biden administration’s focus on conservation. Additionally, regulations on micropollutants like PFAS and 1,4-Dioxane are a governmental priority right now.

      • Reputational risk is the hardest to project but can also be the most expensive. As consumers increasingly link purchase decisions with a company’s ESG impact, it must become a facility’s priority to avoid negative press. Identifying and preventing leakages of toxic streams is important step towards mitigation of this risk. However, this risk can easily yield reward when proper water stewardship practices are followed. Stonyfield Organic is one example of countless companies receiving positive brand recognition for their ESG focus.

The fourth listed benefit (Earn your company ESG credits through the Alliance for Water Stewardship) is geared more towards investor confidence in contrast to the aforementioned consumer risk. The Alliance for Water Stewardship is an international organization which defines and promotes water stewardship criteria which corporations can get certified for. Such accreditations will be valuable to show investors with growing expectations for ESG and can be achieved with comprehensive treatment plants which achieve ZLD (Zero Liquid Discharge) or MLD (Minimal Liquid Discharge).

An estimated 14 million U.S. households struggled to pay their water bills in 2017. A 2020 investigation into household water debt found 1.5 million past-due accounts owing $1.1 billion. Research by The Guardian revealed that water bills surged by almost 30 percent from 2010 to 2018.

The last benefit covered in this article (Contribute to the UN General Assembly’s SDG Goal 6) refers to the UN sustainable development goal of increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation worldwide by 2030. While this goal can be achieved by your company’s charity arm, reusing water at your facility can be an even more impactful way of doing your part in freeing up availability of water. Further, US manufacturing uses 18 billion GPD of water per day in operations. Recycling even a fraction of that amount will ensure cheaper water for Americans and less operating stress (and potential sanitation concerns) for local utilities. On a global scale, manufacturing industries use almost 25% of available freshwater. For facilities in water-stressed regions, implementing MLD or ZLD can therefore result in notably better longevity and socioeconomic outcomes for local communities due to better water, sanitation and hygiene. Overall, there are many tangible benefits to implementing strong ESG practices at your facility. Aquatech hopes this article serves as a useful guideline for your company as you start (or continue) to look into ways to implement strong ESG practices at the facility level.

Any questions on this content or Aquatech’s offerings can be directed to Bill Barber (Eastern US Sales Manager, barberb@aquatech.com), Nilesh Satambekar (Western Sales Manager, satambekarn@aquatech.com) or your existing Aquatech sales contact.

 

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