Tata Steel’s 4R methodology for sustainable water management


It is truly an exciting time for those of us with a ‘green’ outlook. The last few years have seen an unprecedented focus on sustainable living. The most heartening examples are the Paris Agreement (where countries voluntarily committed themselves to Nationally Determined Contributions) and the UN initiated Sustainable Development Goals.

Tata Steel has shown that it is economically viable to be ecologically sustainable. The Company is continuing to invest and experiment further, to get to a state of Zero Liquid Discharge.

They’re also looking for viable substitutes for freshwater, even exploring possibilities with municipal wastewater. After all, sustainability is no longer about the environment alone, it is about economic survival too. Businesses of the future understand this, even if businesses of today may not.

Tata Steel uses their 4R methodology to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recharge their water supply. In order to reduce fresh water consumption, the Company conform to a water audit and have real-time, online monitoring.

By reusing drain water for low-end applications like coke quenching, blast furnace quenching, dust suppression, tyre washing and pellet and sinter cooling, Tata Steel reduces its consumption of freshwater considerably.

Recycling happens at the Central Effluent Treatment Plant and the output is clarified water. Recharging is done via aggressive rainwater harvesting measures, which allows rainwater to do what nature designed it for!

Water sustainability strategy of Tata Steel for future-readiness is to continue investing in Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and creating new Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) structures at various locations to improve the groundwater table. In fact, Tata Steel had commissioned the creation of the Dimna Lake in Jamshedpur as a catchment area in the rainy season. Today, it has the holding capacity of 6,292 million gallons of water. A store large enough to supply 14% of Jamshedpur’s annual water demand!

In Financial Year 2018-19, 29 million litres of RWH (Rain Water Harvesting) structures were added at the Joda east iron ore mine. The Company has also created various rainwater harvesting structures beyond the fence as part of the community initiatives (ponds and check dams) and township infrastructure (rooftop) at Jamshedpur and mining locations. A 25 MLD tertiary treatment plant was commissioned at Bara STP to convert sewage water of the Jamshedpur township into process water for reuse in Jamshedpur steelworks which will help in reducing freshwater consumption by 18% in the future

In sum, the 4R methodology has helped Tata Steel in reducing its overall freshwater consumption by almost 35% over the last five years! The flagship steel plant in Jamshedpur consumes the same amount of water as it did when it had just half the steel-producing capacity compared to today. And their efforts continue to bring further improvements. It will be interesting to see what other benchmarks Tata Steel is able to set in the coming years.

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