Increasing pressures on freshwater supplies, continuity of supply uncertainties, and costs linked to legislative compliance, such as for wastewater treatment, are driving water use reduction up the agenda of manufacturing businesses. A survey is presented of current analysis methods and tools generally available to industry to analyze environmental impact of, and to manage, water use. These include life cycle analysis, water footprinting, strategic planning, water auditing, and process integration. It is identified that the methods surveyed do not provide insight into the operational requirements from individual process steps for water, instead taking such requirements as a given. We argue that such understanding is required for a proactive approach to long-term water usage reduction, in which sustainability is taken into account at the design stage for both process and product. As a first step to achieving this, we propose a concept of water usage efficiency which can be used to evaluate current and proposed processes and products. Three measures of efficiency are defined, supported by a framework of a detailed categorization and representation of water flows within a production system. The calculation of the efficiency measures is illustrated using the example of a tomato sauce production line. Finally, the elements required to create a useable tool based on the efficiency measures are discussed.
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