WATER: The challenge of conservation and reuse: How industries are applying technology and conservation to reduce water consumption.

Author:Lluma, Diego

All things are from water and everything is resolved into water. That maxim by Thales of Miletus more than 2,500 years ago is now becoming a mantra for companies across Latin America as they seek to reduce consumption and costs of this increasingly scarce resource. Demands by communities, international organizations, and regulatory frameworks have spurred the creation of a new agenda of environmental ethics.

Almost a third of the planet's fresh water is concentrated in Latin America and the Caribbean, Sergio Campos, chief of the Water and Sanitation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) told the World Water Forum in Brasilia last March.

However, this comparative advantage is overshadowed by uneven distribution that leaves many of the region's inhabitants without supplies.

Water is a concern of both governments and companies. The corporate world has already incorporated the issue to its to-do list. That's why, from the Rio Grande to Ushuaia, an increasing number of companies are looking for ways to contribute to conservation, reducing consumption and recycling.

The Colombian petroleum company Ecopetrol is at the forefront of sustainable water resource management. Its investments and engineering in this area are providing concrete economic results.

In processes that require water to extract hydrocarbons it is indispensable to maximize the reuse of water to avoid damaging oilfields and to ensure continuity of the operation, Sandra Yamile Alvarez Aceros, from the Ecopetrol's environmental management division, explained to Latin Trade. She forecast that one of the company's oilfields--Chichimene --will reach 100% reutilization of water used for production by July 1, 2019.

Other Ecopetrol facilities are applying engineering solutions developed in-house for treating and recycling water. The La Cira-Infantas Field, for example, where Colombia's first oil well was discovered 100 years ago, has been recycling all the water it uses since 2009.

"Ecopetrol periodically updates its map of capturing hydraulic resources," said Alvarez Aceros. This measure is matched with the surface water map prepared by Colombia's Institute of Environmental and Meteorological Studies (IDEAM) and operations are adjusted accordingly.

"Today we reuse 59% of all of the water needed for operations," said Alvarez Aceros. "This comes to 70 million [m.sup.3] per year that the company has stopped capturing and has stopped pouring away." This has the double benefit...

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