Climate change and the risk to business: adaptation, innovation and resilience
18 Jan 2017
Climate change will have significant implications for industrial businesses and their water processes, says Nick Simpson, marketing director at Suez Treatment Solutions UK.
The effects of climate and weather pattern changes on industrial and business operations are real, diverse and costly in their impact.
Companies in many regions of the UK have already experienced them, for example through the increase in the frequency and severity of flooding in recent winters. Other effects will be subtler, but no less significant.
Water supplies are likely to become more costly, unpredictable and variable in quality. Rising sea levels increase groundwater salinity close to the coast. Changes in the water table may affect the supply of water from wells and boreholes, and the cost and availability of extraction permits.
An increase in the intensity of rainfall will increase peak demand on drainage and treatment equipment, raising the risk of environmental excursions and groundwater contamination
In addition, rainfall variations may drive increases in the variability and volatility of the chemical and biological composition of water, affecting the cost and complexity of treatment and the efficiency of industrial processes.
Wastewater treatment installed in low-lying areas are particularly susceptible to damage and disruption from flooding. An increase in the intensity of rainfall will increase peak demand on drainage and treatment equipment, raising the risk of environmental excursions and groundwater contamination.
Rising temperatures will increase insect populations and the potential from problems with biological blooms and sludge odours. It may become more difficult to gain permission to use current disposal routes for biological wastes, like land spreading.
Managing the water risks
Every organisation has a part to play in the battle against climate change, but they also have a responsibility to protect themselves against its impacts. That calls for a considered and co-ordinated approach:
• Understand your current water and wastewater treatment demand and the capabilities of your equipment
• Assess the risks posed to your processes by climate-related changes
• Identify appropriate, cost-effective strategies to manage and mitigate those risks
• Implement, monitor and maintain risk mitigation actions
The actions available to companies seeking to improve the resilience of their processes to climate-related risks are as varied as the processes themselves. There are some key areas of focus, however:
Reduce demand: Processes that use less water and produce less wastewater are the basis of good economic and environmental practice.
Actions to reduce water demand include education, optimal operation of equipment, investment in technologies that offer higher efficiencies and the reuse of waste streams as inputs into other processes such as clean in place.
Protect critical equipment: Where it is technically unfeasible or uneconomic to install full flood defences, the resilience of water and wastewater treatment sites can be improved through relatively simple measures, like raising critical pumps and control equipment off the ground to prevent damage in a flooding event.
Develop alternative sources of supply: The effect of supply shortages or quality issues can be mitigated through the availability of alternatives. Boreholes, canals, rivers, rainwater harvesting, neighbouring sites and even effluent streams from other processes can all provide suitable input water with appropriate treatment.
Increase capacity flexibility: Changes in volume or quality can dramatically affect the demand on water and wastewater treatment equipment. The development of modular, containerised water treatment equipment offers a fast and cost-effective way to increase the capacity or capability of a water treatment plant.
With suitable pipework and installation locations in place, such equipment can be brought on site quickly by service providers incurring costs to the company only when it is required.
Appropriate contingency planning and risk management should be an ongoing part of business continuity planning for every organisation.
Part 1 of the video is shown below.
For more information about Suez Treatment Solutions UK’s new free guide to adaptation, innovation and resilience in response to climate change, click HERE.