U.S. Manufacturing Water Use Data and Estimates: Current State, Limitations, and Future Needs for Supporting Manufacturing Research and Development
Water is essential to manufacturing operations; without it, many facilities could not operate or meet production demands. Physical, reputational, and regulatory risks to water supplies compounded by climate change-induced impacts on hydrological conditions threaten the adequacy of water supplies for manufacturing. Manufacturing water use has not been a major focus of either water or manufacturing-related research. Research and development (R&D) aimed at helping manufacturers use water more sustainably and adapt to changing water conditions is needed to ensure a thriving sector and economy. However, the ability to identify R&D needs is severely limited due to a lack of current, statistically representative data on manufacturing water use and its environmental implications. In this perspective, we outline four key questions to inform R&D on manufacturing use and highlight how the current state of water data in the U.S. does not support adequately investigating these questions. We make recommendations for the water data characteristics needed to explore the research questions and knowledgeably inform R&D on manufacturing water use.