Characterizing manufacturing wastewater in the United States for the purpose of analyzing energy requirements for reuse

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Journal Article

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This paper seeks to inform an improved understanding of the energy tradeoff associ-ated with on-site manufacturing water reuse in the United States from a lifecycle per-spective, in part by developing an analytical framework for understanding when this tradeoff for reuse is beneficial. We survey the literature to assess the current state of reuse and its motives and barriers in the United States, before synthesizing informa-tion from publicly available EPA data on contaminants in US manufacturing wastew-aters and technologies for treating them. Using the available data, we derive a set of “ubiquitous contaminants” among the top ten in terms of mass discharged in more than half of US manufacturing subsectors (NAICS 31–33) according to EPA permit data. We also present information on proven treatment trains and their energy requirements. We then compare water quality requirements for specific contaminants in reclaimed water to those characteristic of wastewater streams currently being discharged from manufacturing plants into surface waters to highlight sectors with reuse opportunities that could require little cost to realize, such as primary metals and, to a lesser extent, petroleum and coal products. We conclude by highlighting data limitations that need to be rectified before applying the framework more broadly and discussing how these data gaps could be filled. Better understanding the relationship between energy and water in the context of on-site manufacturing water reuse would allow manufactur-ers to improve resiliency by reducing regulatory, physical, and reputational risks while lessening their footprint on local watersheds.


Journal of Industrial Ecology

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Type of Article




Short Title

Journal of Industrial Ecology