Protecting the watershed

Although our manufacturing processes do not consume significant amounts of water, ABB is committed to minimizing our impact on the watershed in the communities where we operate. We have developed an in-house tool for mapping and analysis of water flows at our facilities. This tool is now being used to develop and track water action plans at our manufacturing facilities located in water-scarce and extremely water-scarce watersheds.

The improvement programs are beginning to show results: simple steps are bringing the dual benefits of reduced environmental impacts and lower utility bills.

The ABB Al Quoz facility in the United Arab Emirates, includes the assembly factory for low voltage systems, systems automation and communication, the service center for turbocharging, as well as office space housing approximately 450 employees. Recent increases in workload have led to increases in staff and significantly higher water consumption.

To address this, the facility installed water meters to identify water use patterns and retrofitted all 67 free flow water taps at the site with pressure-compensating spray aerators. These new aerators with low flow rates have substantially reduced the amount of water wasted, with water savings of over 5,000 m3 per year and annual cost savings of almost $14,000.

In China, the ABB Xiamen Electrical Controlgear Company a leading supplier of outdoor switchgear products and employs about 250 staff. Following analysis using the ABB Water Tool, the facility implemented three action plans during 2012, resulting in a 20 percent reduction in water use by the end of 2013.

First, regular monitoring of water consumption was implemented, allowing the identification of leak points and consequent recovery measures to lessen environmental impacts. The site also implemented an awareness raising and water conservation training program. Posters were displayed on Quality, Health, Safety and Environment boards throughout the facility and formal training sessions on water conservation measures were conducted for employees.

Finally, the water recycling system, which treats domestic and sanitary wastewater for reuse in irrigation, was addressed. The system was installed in 2009, however output capacity proved insufficient to meet demand, necessitating the addition of clean tap water for irrigation purposes. During 2012, an aeration tank was added, increasing efficiency, providing better quality output, and avoiding the need for additional clean water.

The ABB facility located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia manufactures distribution transformers, low and medium voltage switchgear and substation protection systems and houses more than 1,600 employees. Following installation of water meters to aid analysis, the site identified improvements in its painting and surface treatment processes as the best opportunity to conserve scarce water resources.

The waste water from the painting and surface treatment process normally was discharged, but during 2012 this was modified to a closed loop system. A filtration unit was installed to allow recycling of the water from the surface treatment process for use as washing water in the painting process. Water can now be recycled in this closed loop for up to three weeks, before discharge to a specialist waste water treatment supplier.

The site faced several challenges during project implementation: redesigning the process without affecting daily work or the quality of the products and at reasonable cost. These objectives were met. Modifications were implemented at a cost of $2,000, resulting in an annual water savings of approximately 550 m3 and annual cost savings of over $1,000.