Commercial and Industrial Water Use Efficiency

Statewide commercial and industrial water use during water year 2002, a “normal” hydrology year, was 1,700 TAF, 13.2% of total urban water demand. During water year 2015, a very dry year, total urban water use fell 24%. Of that amount, 19% was used by the commercial and industrial sectors.[6]

In Tulare County, commercial and industrial water use accounted for 17% of total urban water demand during water year 2015, close to the same percentage of total applied water during water year 2002. In actual water volumes, however, commercial and industrial water use fell substantially during water year 2015, both statewide and in Tulare County.[7]

Although commercial and industrial sector water use appear small relative to residential, there are still many opportunities for water efficiency. When asked “What is the single largest use of potable water for nonpotable uses?”, many stakeholders identified cleaning and washing of facilities, equipment, and vehicles. Several stakeholders including municipal water agencies and food processors noted that a significant portion of Tulare County’s valuable groundwater is used to wash large vehicles (flatbeds, box trucks, and tank trucks) that transport crops and food products.

For this sector, the most significant opportunity to save water is to reduce use of potable water for non-potable purposes. That broad objective encompasses waterless or highly water-efficient equipment, systems, and processes, and recycle/reuse of water.

Within the commercial sector, the amount of water that can be saved depends on the water use profiles of specific business segments.

  • Restaurants use water to clean dishes and kitchens.
  • Commercial laundries use water to clean linens, uniforms and other clothing.
  • Lodging (hotels and motels) use water to clean bedding, linens, and uniforms.
  • Lodging, institutional facilities, and commercial buildings provide water for use by guests, tenants, and residents.

Water use for cleaning of facilities and equipment is significantly larger as a percentage of total water use within the industrial sector. It is particularly high in food and beverage (F&B) processing where 60% of more of process (non-food) water is used for cleaning: [8]

  • CIP (“clean in place” systems clean the interior surfaces of process equipment without need to disassemble the system).
  • COP (“clean out of place” system clean equipment that cannot be cleaned “in place”, such as areas where process equipment may need to be disassembled, and/or items that are small, complex, sensitive, or difficult to clean).
  • Floors and exterior equipment.
  • Lubricating and cleaning conveyors.

Water-Efficient or Waterless Cleaning and Disinfection Technologies

Technology Name Description Benefits
Dry Ice Blasting (also known as Cryoblasting) Blasts surfaces with small pellets of solid CO2 that evaporate and freeze substrates on surfaces
  • No residual cleaning chemical
  • No drying time delay
  • Good for sensitive electronics where water and chemicals could cause damage
Biomist Disinfection A misted alcohol for disinfection of food and food processing surfaces
  • Kills germs on contact and evaporates; surfaces and equipment left dry
  • Non-corrosive; can sanitize non-washable equipment, electronics, control panels, etc.
Electrochemically Activated Solutions (ECA) Uses water, table salt and electricity to create 2 solutions: one for cleaning and one for sanitizing
  • No additional chemicals or hot water
  • Low operational costs
  • Skin-safe; little danger to workers
  • Can be applied to food products; does not affect appearance, taste, or smell
Ultrasound Antimicrobial agent using soundwaves at high power and low frequencies
  • Generally considered safe, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly
  • Barrier: Lack of case study data
Cold Plasma Applies electricity to a gas, creating ions, radiation and excited molecules that eliminate pathogens
  • Utilizes non-reactive, non-polluting gases and minimal electricity
  • No water use, liquid waste, sewage disposal
  • Non-toxic, can be used with food products
Photo credit: Cucumber washing, Shutterstock 565877869

Other Avoidable Uses of Water

  • Bottles and cans can be cleaned with waterless technologies (“air-rinsing”).

  • Technologies are being developed that displace use of water for conveyance of fruit, nuts, vegetables, and other fresh food products throughout a processing plant.

Stakeholders' Recommendations

One California manufacturer of specialty ice creams stated that most of the water use in ice cream plants is for cleaning: ice cream vats between flavor changes, equipment surfaces (both “CIP and “COP”), facility floors. That manufacturer is considering an on-site primary treatment system with advanced filtration and disinfection that will produce a high quality recycled water that can be used for all non-food purposes. The amount of water estimated to be recycled and reused by that one ice cream manufacturer is 80%. In addition to reducing the manufacturer’s water and wastewater costs and decreasing vulnerability to water supply shortages, this strategy helps build drought resilience for the community. Additional anticipated benefits are:

  • Minimal discharges to the municipal wastewater treatment plant that is experiencing a relatively high frequency of permit violations due to deferred maintenance;
  • Very low energy use (the primary treatment portion of the process uses a 3 hp pump only 10-15 minutes an hour for a 15,000 gpd system); and
  • Increased renewable energy (this technology has verified increased biogas production of 3-5 times when compared to conventional biological municipal wastewater treatment systems).[9]

One local government official stated that the single largest use of potable water for nonpotable purposes was using groundwater to wash large commercial vehicles that transport crops and food products. Several technology companies provide packaged recycled water vehicle washing systems for both passenger and commercial vehicles. Existing facilities will need to purchase and install these systems, or install other types of retrofits to recycle vehicle wash water, incurring incremental costs.


Estimating the Potential for Water Use Efficiency in Commercial and Industrial Sectors

The project team was unable to obtain water use data by specific customer segments or end uses. However, total water savings potential is likely to be greater than 10% for these sectors on an average basis, since F&B manufacturers and vehicle washing facilities are very large water users and can reduce their water use by 60-80+% through on-site production and use of recycled water. Since most of the water used in Tulare County for these purposes is pumped from groundwater wells, electric consumption will also decrease through avoided water pumping.

[6] DWR Water Portfolio Tool, “Water Supply & Balance Data Interface, ‘Lite’ ver. 9.1.” for Water Years 2002 and 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Blake Schomas, Director of Marketing for Nalco Water, an Ecolab company, in an interview with Debra Schug, Food Engineering, Reducing water usage in food and beverage processing, April 18, 2016.

[9] Interview with Alex Wright, Clear Cove Systems.