Water is of vital commodity for sustenance of life on the planet. Nature has evolved very systematic approach towards water conversation through evaporation from water bodies, cloud formation, rains and eventual return to water bodies through flowing rivers and streams. It is a delicate balance of nature which gets disturbed by human activities.
Water is an important resource in industrial sectors and in domestic use. It is not possible to imagine life without the availability of water or when stringent regulations are laid down on its consumption. Such situations are avoidable provided each one of us understands the importance of conservation of this essential resource.
In addition to industries and households water finds extensive use in offices and laboratories. In comparison to offices the consumption is much higher in laboratories due to requirements virtually in all operations and processes. The article discusses areas of water consumption in laboratories and also offers some suggestions on conserving the valuable resource.
Preparation of solutions, buffers and mobile phases
Water finds more than one application in laboratories and therefore several grades of water are needed for laboratory use. Selection of the appropriate purity grade depends on the sensitivity requirements of the analysis. At time of preparation of solutions, buffers or mobile phases you should use prepare adequate quantities that are just sufficient for the required analysis. Excess amounts generally get drained away or need to be discarded after their expiry period.
Keeping in mind water conservation without sacrificing quality of results can save sufficient amounts of water. Instead of washing directly with high purity water use tap water for initial cleaning and rinsing. It is a good practice to first soak the dirty used labware in a tub filled with tap water to which some detergent is added for some time and then cleaning under a running stream of tap water. After the initial cleaning stage use higher purity grade water for rinsing. This will help save several litters of purified water each day.
For initial rinsing with tap water use low flow and it is advised to make use of aerated faucets on laboratory taps. This also helps increase pressure at low flow rates. When using laboratory glassware washing machines try to operate under full load whenever possible.
Cooling water for laboratory equipments
Water is extensively used for laboratory equipment cooling and in particular in distillation condensers. It is rather painful to see treated tap water running down the drain in single- pass cooling arrangements. Whenever possible make use of closed- loop portable chillers. It is not necessary to invest large sums in sophisticated chillers. Improvised devices comprising of water tubs and domestic water pumps work equally well in routine applications. Cooling efficiency can be further improved if waste ice cubes used in other applications are added to the cooling water tub instead of discarding them in wash basins
Use purified water judiciously
You should bear in mind that production of a litter of RO water requires a minimum of 3 to 5 litres of tap water. As discussed earlier make use of purified water judiciously and save on quantities of raw water required for the purification process.
Autoclaves are used for the purpose of sterilization in microbiological laboratories. Supply of water to autoclave can be controlled by making use of a miser and this way water consumption can be reduced to at least half. Make it a practice to run the autoclave on full load and remember to turn it off when it is not in use.
Vacuum pump filtration
Make use of water faucet aspirators for carrying out vacuum filtrations leads to a lot of water being wasted in the drain. Instead make use of oil- free membrane vacuum pumps.
In addition to the measures suggested you should keep an eye for leaking pipelines and dripping taps. Plumbing repairs in time can save hundreds of liters of water annually. It is further suggested that just like safety posters a laboratory should also have posters on water conservation measures on walls and in particular near water points. Saving on water wastage will be a step towards conservation of this valuable resource and it will also contribute to substantial reduction in cost of laboratory operations.