Opportunities and Challenges for Industrial Water Treatment and Reuse
As the impact of water scarcity in the United States (U.S.) continues to grow through the 21st century, it is critical to develop strategies to reduce water use and improve the security of water resources. One such strategy is to diversify the sources from which water is supplied. Industrial withdrawals represent the fourth largest category of U.S. water use, the majority of which is sourced from fresh surface and groundwater. In this study, we critically explore the potential of industrial wastewater to serve as an alternative water resource through direct treatment and reuse. We begin by reviewing the state of the art of water use, treatment, and reuse across six representative industries: food and beverages, primary metals, pulp and paper, petroleum refining, chemicals, and data centers and campuses, highlighting key challenges and opportunities toward the expansion of reuse. We then employ a technoeconomic assessment of water treatment processes to analyze the capital investment, operating and maintenance costs, levelized cost of water, and electricity consumption of three specific industrial plants as case studies to better understand where research can promote impactful innovation. Finally, drawing together the results of our literature review and technoeconomic analyses, we provide a broad outlook on the future of industrial water reuse and discuss strategies for its expansion.