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This section explores industry’s role as both a user of water and its responsibility to protect water quality.

Industrial Uses
Industry, if you include thermoelectric generation, accounts for about 53% of all water use. Thermoelectric generation 47%, irrigation 34%, public supply 9%, industrial 6%, mining 1%, livestock 1%, domestic 1%, commercial uses 1%. But different industries use water in different ways.

Water In
Industries that rely on clean water use municipal water, or have their own facilities on site to do some water treatment to ensure the water’s quality. The food industry requires clean water so there is no health risk from food it produces. Nobody wants to drink a soda made with contaminated water. Paper mills use millions of gallons of water to manufacture paper. If the water has too much sediment or too many chemicals, the quality of the paper could suffer or machinery could be damaged.

For other industries, water is key to production but it doesn’t necessarily have to be clean. For example, power plants and steel mills use large volumes of water as coolant for their equipment. For those types of industrial uses, water doesn’t need to meet the same high standards of cleanliness.

Water Out
Industrial water needs to be treated before it’s returned to the water cycle. Treatment may remove chemicals used in manufacturing or change the water’s temperature. (Putting hot or cold water back into a lake, river, or stream can significantly change the temperature which affects aquatic life.) Industries that discharge wastewater into surface water sources, like rivers or streams, must have a special permit from the EPA. In exchange for the permit, industries agree to treat the wastewater so that it meets water quality standards. Instead of handling treatment on their own, most industries choose to use their community’s wastewater treatment plant.

Industrial Management Practices
Do you know that one quart of oil disposed of improperly can pollute as much as 250,000 gallons of water? A lot of small businesses, like photo processing labs and dry-cleaners, use toxic chemicals that need to be disposed of properly. Each business is responsible for how they manage all their materials, including wastes and water. Management practices directly determine whether any industry, big or small, makes a positive or negative impact on water quality.



Explore More: Water Quality
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.














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