How can we become more sustainable? An answer might be found in looking at waste as a valuable resource, rather than as a burden.
In the article, we look at the water management model that Amata Corporation has created to overcome potential challenges, including water shortages. As a premier developer of private industrial estates, the company must be able to provide a reliable water supply to its customers, now and in the long term. Water availability can't be limited only to industrial activity, but must be guaranteed for all sectors. It’s more than simply ensuring investor confidence.
Tackling water shortage while saving up to 40% on water
The Thai government has mandated a policy to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which comprises Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces. Their objective is to make the EEC the best and most modern economic area within ASEAN. Today, the eastern region of Thailand already has many factors contributing to its economic development; deep-sea ports, airports, major transportation routes, tourist attractions on land and at sea are all significant contributors to economic growth. Furthermore, Thailand is an attractive investment destination in Asia, with a strategically ideal location in the center of Southeast Asia, with an abundance of favorable conditions.
Chuchat Saitin, Managing Director of Amata Water Co., Ltd., is emphasizing the importance of the new EEC area, saying that it has growth potential to become a major economic hub. He anticipates growth rates higher than in Europe or America, with the advantage of more favorable production factors seen in labor cost, cost of raw materials and other operational costs.
When the EEC region is fully-developed within the next twenty years or so, many more migrant workers will relocate to the area, adding to the already densely-populated and urbanized coastal area in Chonburi and Rayong provinces, and in the existing industrial clusters.
This population growth will fuel an ever-increasing demand for water in all sectors. Overall demand for water is expected to rise by up to 3 billion cubic meters by 2037, making it a major consideration for ambitious development plans.
In the year 2005, the EEC region experienced a major drought, prompting Amata to become aware of the necessity of proper water management. Amata was possibly the first Thailand company to recognize the advantages of recycled wastewater as an additional water source, in place of naturally-sourced water.
According to Director Chuchat, "Since the severe drought of 2005, Amata has been continuously developing its water management programs in order to avoid future water shortages. We have worked on data analyses of weather conditions and forecasts. We worked on alternative water sources, including surface groundwater. And we studied options for recycling wastewater and producing fresh water from seawater using current technologies. We have focused on achieving a balance between economic and social development and the environment. Our water management principles are based on a circular economy system with an efficient use of natural resources, known as the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”
Chuchat also added that water management with the “3Rs” principles, including the process of recycling wastewater to reuse in the supply chain, directly affects effectiveness and efficiency.
Every day, Amata’s wastewater treatment plants currently collect and treat 35,700 cubic meters of wastewater, equivalent to 13 million cubic meters per year. Current water reclamation facilities reclaim wastewater with a Reverse Osmosis Membrane (RO) filtration system, reducing the demand for water from fresh sources by 40 percent. The remaining wastewater is utilized for the irrigation of green spaces and for the cooling process at private power plants. The result is zero wastewater flowing into public canals or natural watersheds.
Amata Water Company has also established an Industrial Water Management Learning Center to educate interested agencies and institutions about proper water management system according to the 3Rs principles and the Circular Economy System.
Amata has also applied these water management systems to its industrial estates in Vietnam, and they will continue to do so with the expansion of sites in the future. Their goal is to save water and reduce water consumption from natural water sources, while helping to conserve the environment at the same time.
Chuchat continued, “Currently, we have to guarantee the availability of water to more than 1,100 tenants operating at our industrial estates. The development of efficient water management is critical for achieving a stable and sustainable water supply, not only for Amata's projects, but for the entire EEC region and Thailand in genera. We need to maintain confidence with investors and remain competitive among the Southeast Asian nations. We want to promote the country’s growth, but with stability and sustainability.“
“Waste water will eventually become one of the EEC region's primary water sources, replacing tap water during the dry season,” according to Associate Professor Dr. Chavalit Ratanatamskul, Director of Chulalongkorn University's Innovation Research Unit for Waste Treatment and Water Recycling and also head of the Industrial and Urban Development Project that recycles EEC region waste water under the Spearhead Social Strategy. “The 3R principles are the basis for managing water resources and solving wastewater issues.”
A 2020 research study determined that the promotion of water savings by implementing wastewater recycling projects, Amata industrial estates in Chonburi and Rayong, saved approximately 40 percent, while Saha Industrial Park Sri Racha saved more than 15 percent over the previous year.
The study also found that many industries in the EEC region with high water consumption have the potential to recycle wastewater. The petrochemical industry could save 15 – 37 percent per year, non-metallic & rubber products 18 – 55 percent, chemical industries 16 – 34 percent, food and beverage manufacturers 15 – 18 percent and electronics industries 15 percent.
Dr. Ratanatamskul added that water supply stability is key to the success of the EEC regional development plan. There are already practical water management technologies available to support recycling of wastewater as a new source of fresh water.
And this effort will certainly pay off in the long run, as severe drought is expected to remain a significant risk. Only with concerted efforts to reduce community water consumption with efficient wastewater management strategies can Thailand hope to maintain adequate maintain water sources for many years to come.