According to the United Nations Development Programme, “just under 900 million people lack access to safe water and over 2.7 billion lack access to basic sanitation.”1 The World Bank forecasts that with current practices, the world will face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030.2 Water is a critical natural resource that is required for most manufacturing, heavy processing and power generation industries—which are necessary for economic and social development.
GE addresses global water challenges through many avenues. In addition to GE products with water-saving features across our portfolio, GE’s Water & Process Technologies group partners with customers to provide water treatment, wastewater treatment and process system solutions. GE also focuses on water use in our operations through Ecomagination goals and focused attention in water-scarce regions.
GE is enabling industries to provide clean water more efficiently and manage water usage more effectively. For example, two GE solutions address water challenges:
- PROPAK and RePAK™ systems combine GE’s expertise in ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis (RO) into an integrated platform that allows customers to improve water quality and water use efficiency. PROPAK provides high-quality water from variable-quality surface water, and RePAK enables reuse of tertiary wastewater.3 In Chester, Pennsylvania, Covanta’s Delaware Valley energy-from-waste power plant has reduced demand for water from local supplies by 1.3 million gallons per day using RePAK technology. Two RePAK-450 trains, each producing 450 gallons per minute of purified water, enable the plant to reuse treated discharge water from a nearby municipal wastewater treatment plant to supply the facility’s cooling tower.4
- GE Healthcare’s WAVE Bioreactor system—used for vaccine and other biotherapeutics production—enables cell culturing without requiring cleaning or steam sterilization because it uses disposable bags rather than large stainless steel tanks. This reduces water and energy consumption—and staff time requirements—compared to the stainless steel bioreactor it replaces.5 A production facility that replaces a stainless steel bioreactor with a GE Healthcare 500 L WAVE Bioreactor system with equivalent output can reduce water consumption by more than 66,000 liters per year.
A GE life cycle assessment (LCA) study, published in BioPharm International, shows that a shift from conventional equipment to single-use bioprocessing technology from GE Healthcare Life Sciences can result in substantial reductions in water usage.6,7
To focus on water scarcity in our operations, GE has a special program for water-intensive facilities. To help address water issues in product development, GE’s Ecoassessment Center of Excellence has developed a proprietary custom Water-Energy analysis tool that explores region-specific trade-offs between energy and water impacts. To learn more, please see our section on Product Life Cycle.
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