Industrial Water: Meeting New Standards

By Dr. Anthony Ma 17 September, 2014

Dr. Ma introduces HSBC's water programme led by HKPC to help industries meet pollution & efficiency standards, Dr. Ma introduces HSBC's water programme led by HKPC to help industries meet pollution & efficiency standards

The industrial water programme focuses on electronics, metal finishing, and textile & leather sectors
Pollution control & efficiency improvement facilities cost millions of yuan but have low incentives & long payback
Government needs to provide financial support for factories to adopt water-efficient measures
Dr. Anthony Ma
Author: Dr. Anthony Ma
Anthony Ma, Principal Consultant of the Hong Kong Productivity Council. He has rich experience in water pollution control, water purification, water reclamation and water efficiency consultancy. Specialized in applied researches of different treatment technologies, like selective ion exchange, membrane filtration, chemical oxidation, anaerobic process, compact biological processes and membrane bioreactor to develop innovative solutions and systems.
Read more from Dr. Anthony Ma →

China Water Risk (CWR): We are pleased to see that the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) and HSBC initiated the HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management. Could you give our readers a bit more background of this programme and what do you expect to achieve through this programme?

Anthony Ma (AM): Securing the supply of clean water is a huge and growing global challenge. It is under strain from population growth, urban development industrialization and climate change. Since clean water supply security is vital to building healthy communities and developing national economies, HSBC has developed the HSBC Water Programme (2012-2016) to provide financial support to global communities to strengthen measures to safeguard the water resources.

“In Southern China, intensive industrial activities contribute to freshwater depletion and regional pollution of water bodies in surrounding areas.”

In Southern China, intensive industrial activities contribute to freshwater depletion and regional pollution of water bodies in surrounding areas. In order to help major water-consuming industries to achieve better water management covering water conservation and proper treatment and disposal, Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) with the support from various trade and industry associations will implement “HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management” which is fully funded by HSBC as part of its global Water Programme.


CWR: We participated one introductory seminar held in Guangzhou in May. Lots of factory representatives turned up and showed great interest in this programme. What are the selection criteria? How will you review the applications?

AM: This HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management focuses on three industries: electronics, metal finishing, and textile & leather. Application will be open to all factories but with priority given to Hong Kong companies which are operating factories either in Hong Kong or Guangdong.

“(This programme) focuses on three industries: electronics, metal finishing, and textile & leather….We adopt a marking scheme to evaluate applications and rank the factories.”

Companies with factories from other industry sectors may also apply. Acceptance of these companies to the Programme will, however, be subject to the consideration of the Programme Secretariat on a case-by-case basis. You can find the detailed selection considerations on the website of this programme (click here).

We set up a review panel comprised of trade associations of the three targeted industries in Hong Kong, HSBC and Hong Kong Productivity Council. We adopt a marking scheme to evaluate applications and rank the factories.


CWR: What’s the current status of the programme? What kind of support will the programme provide?

AM: This programme will cater 36 factories by providing general water management assistance. We will review their water usages and wastewater discharges, identify improvement areas in the water management, and then formulate detailed improvement plans. This could help them optimize major water usages and reduce wastewater discharges and wastages, rectify inappropriate operational practices and enhance wastewater treatment and recycling processes.

The programme caters for 36 factories; but 6 will be offered in-depth assessment….

…a best practices water management manual will be compiled.

On top of that, we will select 6 factories out of the 36 factories and offer in-depth technical assistance. It will include preliminary designs of some selected improvement measures and also helping the factories to plan those measures.

Moreover, we will also compile a water management manual for the water consuming industries which will include the best water management practices and practical improvement measures. In addition, a helpdesk will be set up to provide general enquiry about the Programme and industrial water management, and also a website to provide information of events and application.

Currently we have received 27 applications, 11 of which are from textile and leather companies. After preliminary assessment and evaluation, 10 factories (including 4 textile factories) are selected into the first round. We have started conducting site visits to these factories.

CWR: In addition to the above mentioned technical assistance to the participating factories, does this programme also include other activities to promote responsible industrial water management?

AM: Yes, we also organize awareness-raising events such as seminars and plant visits, to facilitate sharing of knowledge and successful experience in water management technologies and practices.

Awareness raising seminars where sharing of knowledge & successful experiences in water management, tech & practices are integrated into the programme.

We have organized two water management awareness seminars in several cities in Guangzhou and Dongguan. The next one will be in Shenzhen in September, 2014. During the seminar, we will introduce the HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management e.g. aims, contents and application method and present the latest environmental policies & regulations. The approach and achievable benefits of water management assessment for factories will also be introduced.

In the later stage of this programme, we will also hold several experience sharing seminars. We will invite participating companies to share the findings and experience obtained from the programme: for example, benchmarking water consumption figures, the best water saving practices, applicable technologies and successful cases. Moreover, we will organize a few plant visits to factories with good water management. This could help demonstrate the practicability of implementing water management measures.

CWR: We understand that this programme will not provide financial support to the participating factories for the implementation of actual solutions on pollution control & efficiency improvement.  What’s the average cost for a company in textile industry to implement relevant measures?


Pollution Control:

There is basically no low cost plan for pollution prevention & control. If the wastewater discharged from a factory is not meeting the national or local standard, the only way to solve the issue is to install treatment facilities.

“The cost of pollution control facilities varies greatly but roughly around RMB 1~5 million…”

The cost of pollution control facilities varies greatly but roughly around RMB 1~5 million, depending on the size of the factories, the amount of wastewater & the targeted production processes (such as dyeing, finishing or knitting, etc.).

Average operation cost of wastewater treatment facility can be calculated as RMB 2~3/m3 of wastewater. Thus, if a factory generates 50,000 m3 of wastewater every year, the annual operation cost will be RMB 0.1-0.15 million.

Efficiency Improvement

Although some local governments have issued policies that require companies to push for more efficient water use, the enforcement is another issue. This is mainly because of the high cost to install water-efficient equipment.

“Support from government is needed to encourage factories to adopt water-efficient measures.”

To replace the current equipment with more water-efficient equipment usually costs a few million RMB. Since the current tariff in China is still very low (for example, RMB 3.46/m3 in Guangzhou), the annual saving from water use is much lower than the equipment purchase & installation cost. This results in a long pay-back period. Thus the incentive for factories to install such equipment is quite low. Therefore, support from government is needed to encourage factories to adopt water-efficient measures.

Further reading:

Textiles Sector articles click here

Industrial Water Management & Pricing:

  • Dirty Thirsty Wars – Fashion Blindsided – CLSA report titled “Dirty Thirsty Fashion: Blindsided by China’s water wars”, examines how China’s water risks could blindside the US$1.7 trillion global fashion industry. Is this the end of fast fashion? Debra Tan expands
  • OEM: Stuck in the Middle – China National Textile & Apparel Council’s Hu Kehua on challenges ahead for textile OEMs in meeting the new textile industry standards and brands’ product needs and why joint efforts  all parties along all stages of the supply chain including design are needed to move towards a circular economy
  • Fundamental Issues: Industrial Wastewater: Professor Ma Zhong, dean of the School of Environment of Renmin University gives his in-depth views on the industrial wastewater standards & pricing. Is it cheaper to pollute than to treat?
  • 8 Facts on China’s Wastewater: Don’t know anything about wastewater in China? Is it on the rise? Is industrial wastewater under-reported? Is it worse for rural areas? Check out our 8 facts from tech, key pollutants to standards
  • Pricing Water: With the NDRC’s recent announcement of tiered tariff hikes across China’s cities to rein in top end water users, Tan mulls over the proposed tiered water tariffs hikes and whether price points and switchpoints between tiers are properly set
  • What is “Treated” Water: BASF’s Magali Simon APAC Head Water Solutions, walks us step by step through the process of wastewater treatment
  • Water Fees & Quotas: Set for Economic Growth?: Debra Tan reviews the new joint standard on water pricing and new provincial quotas on water use, water efficiency and water quality released in January 2013
  • Financing Innovations in Industrial Water: Given China’s limited water supply & rising water tariffs there is no better time to finance water efficiency upgrades. IFC talks us through their innovative financing programme for the textile sector that not only saves water & energy but also makes a return within a short payback term

Industrial Solutions:

  • The Power of Pipe Management: Mark Nicol from Echologics tells us on how acoustic technologies can non-evasively detect underground leaks as well as save water. Globally, 35% of water supplied is lost through leaking pipes; managing this is is key given rising urbanisation
  • China’s Membrane Rush: Foreign vs. Local – Tom Freyberg, Chief Editor at Water & Wastewater International, reviews the opportunities for Chinese & Foreign companies in China’s membrane technology market
  • 5 Takeaways from Aquatech China 2014: How real is China’s war on pollution? Will it translate into a growing domestic water market? See what local & foreign industrial leaders have to say in Shanghai and check out our 5 key takeaways from Aquatech China 2014

Water Policy Overview:

  • 2013 State of Environment Report Review: MEP’s 2013 State of Environment Report says the ‘overall environmental quality was average’ but a closer look reveals mixed news, whilst discrepancies found in sets of pollution data add uncertainty of the real state of the environment
  • Pollution: 5 Reasons to Remain Optimistic: Given the recent release of depressing groundwater & soil pollution statistics, Debra Tan gives us 5 reasons to stay optimistic – from changes in the law to water tariff hikes in Beijing
  • Prioritising EIA Reform in China: Fraudulent & substandard EIA reporting persist. How does China’s EIA process compare to the US & HK? We examine the reforms in store for companies & EIA assesors
  • The War on Water Pollution: Premier Li has just declared war on pollution. Tan expands on the government’s stratagems & offensives and fundamental changes required to shore up the MEP’s arsenal in order to wage a successful war
  • MEP Reform: From Mountaintop to Ocean?: The MEP is currently regarded as too weak to punish polluters due to dispersed authority & overlapping functions. Given the ‘war on pollution’, is reform to make a Super MEP necessary to improve China’s ‘mountains, water, forest, farmland & lakes’?