CH2M HILL Experts Survey Changing Value of Water

Mike Matichich and colleagues looked at five thirsty industrial sectors, including oil & gas, chemicals, and semiconductors, to understand how water and wastewater costs are affecting business decisions.

Mike Matichich, CH2M HILL principal technologist and technology leader for Financial Services in Water, on Sept. 19 will present a new paper, "The Changing Value of Water to the U.S. Economy: Implications from Five ndustrial Sectors," at an EPA technical workshop in Washington, D.C. The workshop on the importance of water to the U.S. economy, is designed to provide a broader perspective on industrial water issues and will be attended by EPA staffers and industry representatives.

The paper -- Matichich worked closely on it with CH2M HILL's Sartaz Ahmed, Marek Mierzejewski, Bill Byers, and Dan Pitzler, according to the company's news release -– lists some recent projects and decisions by key players in semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil & gas. They consulted published economic information available through sources such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis and interviewed representatives of firms engaged in water policy decisions in each sector in order to produce the case studies.

For example, the paper mentions Intel's chip manufacturing plant, Fab 42, in Chandler, Ariz. Intel is spending more than $200 million on public infrastructure, including water and wastewater facilities, and has made its processes for producing ultrapure water (UPW) more efficient, so today it needs 1.25 to 1.5 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of UPW, down from almost 2 gallons in the recent past, the authors report.

The chemical case study involves Dow Chemical and mainly its Freeport, Texas, operations. There, the company bought a 2,200-acre parcel of land to develop a reservoir, and it recycles treated wastewater from the nearby city of Lake Jackson for use in its plants.

Rio Tinto, Kennecott Utah Copper, and Resolution Copper are the companies with operations profiled in the mining section of the report, while Anadarko Petroleum Corp.'s agreement to purchase 1,500 acre-feet of reclaimed wastewater annually for five years from the city of Aurora, Colo., is outlined in the mining section. The thermal power generation company highlighted in the report is Southern Company for projects in Florida and Alabama.

All five of these industries face increasing competition for water, increasing awareness of water usage, and the potential for business disruption due to changes in water volume or quality, according to the report.