Why Wastewater Management is Essential for Cleantech
Clean technology, if it is to be comprehensive, must be focused on protecting all our valuable natural resources, including our vital supply of fresh water. Wastewater management, particularly in the industrial sector, represents a critically important aspect of cleantech that will not only help the environment but address increasing regulations. As impact investors, we must consider the realities of our economy as well as what is right for the planet, and wastewater management provides a significant opportunity for both.
Within Canada, the oil and natural gas extraction and mining industries are significant stakeholders in our economy. We have one of the top three proven petroleum reserves in the world, we are a leading exporter in natural gas, and current estimates report we have nearly $100 billion in mining assets in our country. These contributions to our economy must be recognized, but so must the fact that mining and extraction operations are also significant polluters to our environment. And, nearly all these operations exist off the centralized grid and are powered primarily by dirty diesel energy.
Mining, fracking, and petroleum extraction all produce toxic waste products which can easily taint water supplies. While Canadian law requires industrial waste producers to return used natural resources to their original state following production, water used in industrial processes is often being neglected, leading to pollution of the local water tables.
The threat of water scarcity is terrifying in and of itself, with a solid two-thirds of the world’s population facing a water shortage in less than ten years, but this threat becomes even more troubling when considering the amount of water that can become permanently contaminated by industrial effluents. And the lack of water management in these industries means loss of valuable resources in wastewater that could be reused. Clean technologies can not only treat wastewater but also extract and recycle the chemicals and compounds added to the water throughout the industrial processes.
Innovators in wastewater management are approaching these problems from multiple directions. New techniques are being developed that yield cleaner water with less initial input using thermal energy, membranes, and other technologies that also allow for the extraction of valuable minerals and chemicals which have industrial applications. Less waste means less damage to the environment overall.
Wastewater remediation is an area primed for investment. Regulatory changes guarantee that current industrial wastewater management strategies must change. As major industries move closer to green solutions, the technologies that promote effective, efficient wastewater management are going to be in the spotlight.