Thursday, June 9, 2011

Evaporation, Catchment, Re-Run: Part 1

In our initial conversations with Sarvajal managers, we learned that each franchise location discards 3000-5000 liters of reject water (RO brine) per day.

On an industrial scale, this may not seem like a lot, but when you’re thinking of growing local operations in a water-stressed region it starts to add up. It makes a compelling case for conservation for conservation’s sake and it also reveals an opportunity for proactive business adaptation strategy. Not only is it in Survival’s best interest to conserve the supply of fresh water available in underwater aquifers, there may also be financial pay-offs down the road for maximizing capacity for efficient resource use today.

As it stands, the existing incentive structure does not lend itself to efficient or sustainable water use. Well water is free to franchisees and there are no restrictions on withdrawing or discarding unused water. However, Sarvajal franchisees do pay for energy and maintenance. Given that running reverse osmosis machines at their highest efficiency both increases wear and tear and energy consumption, inefficient water use makes good business sense… for now.

But business-sense aside, Sarvajal recognizes the social imperatives to use communal resources as responsibly as possible. Our challenge is to find ways to encourage and enable more conservative water use that will not raise operating costs for Sarvajal’s franchisees.

One possible approach to this challenge is to find ways to use reject water from Sarvajal’s operations in a complimentary business venture. Running public toilets, kiln cooling or aquaculture operations with the brine may generate additional income for entrepreneurs which would shift the incentive structure all together. However, these options each require launch an entirely new business. Where barriers to launching a complimentary business venture are prohibitive, there may be another option to recover and utilize as much water as possible under current Sarvajal operations: evaporation, catchment and rerun of the reject water.

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