Water management is a major challenge in global sustainability practices. There is a renewable but fixed amount of water on Earth to be shared among people, agriculture, business and the environment. Population growth, increased wealth and industrialization are driving increased water demand which is expected to exceed supply by 40% by 2030. Many regions are on course to suffer major freshwater deficits over the next two decades and allocation will have to balance these competing needs while managing trade-offs.
Cement production requires water for cooling heavy equipment and exhaust gases, in emission control systems such as wet scrubbers, as well as for preparing slurry in wet process kilns. Today there are still wet and dry cement technology but the technologies in wet process kilns are becoming obsolete and progressively being replaced by more efficient dry process kilns. Discharged water may be altered in terms of temperature, acidity or suspended solids with potential impacts for the discharge environment. Quarry dewatering may have impact on the groundwater level too. The aggregates business (when applying wet screening and aggregates washing) and ready-mix concrete also require water for their production. Water recycling is largely applied in the cement industry. The water consumed is also for domestic uses at residential unit within the cement plant, i.e. not just for industrial purpose.
Companies have to first understand the site water flows and then manage the quantities of water withdrawn, as well as the quality of water released, with particular attention in water stressed areas. Following a risk-based approach, actions must be taken to offset the industry water footprint, particularly at local level, where individual facilities and activities can have implications for other water users in the area. Member companies of the CSI aim to reduce the quantity of water withdrawal and to ensure the quality of water discharged.
CSI also facilitates sharing of good practices amongst member companies and within the industry.
The WBCSD Water Project has been active on sustainable development issues concerning water for more than 15 years. The multiple projects and initiatives that they undertake involve several leading global companies.