EghtesadOnline: The project to transfer wastewater from nine counties in Isfahan Province to Mobarakeh Steel Company -- Iran's biggest steelmaker located in the same province -- was launched on Friday.
"A contract was signed in 2013 between Isfahan's Water and Wastewater Engineering Company and the giant steelmaker to supply a part of wastewater from the province to the complex," Hamidreza Azimian told the Persian-language economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.
The project cost $61 million and was aimed at tapping into unconventional water resources like reclaimed water, fighting the crippling drought in the central plateau and safeguarding the environment as releasing untreated wastewater in to the ecosystem could result in irreparable damage, he said.
The project entailed construction of a large network to collect and transfer sewage to the complex from counties in the vicinity of the province, Financial Tribune reported.
"Laying 600 kilometers of pipelines in small towns namely, Mobarakeh, Lenjan, Dizicheh, Zibashahr, Talkhouncheh, and Sadeh cost $16 million," he said.
MSC has significantly reduced water consumption over the past 25 years, he added.
"The plant consumed 16,000 liters of water to produce one ton of steel in 1994. Now that has been cut by five times to 3,000 liters," Azimian noted.
MSC's annual output is 7.2 million tons, for which 22 billion liters of water is used. Water consumption was 37 billion liters in 1994 for barely producing two million tons of steel.
According to Hashem Amini, head of Isfahan's Water and Wastewater Engineering Company, an estimated 250 million cubic meters of wastewater is produced in the province, half of which will be transferred to MSC.
In a similar move other steel factories, namely Isfahan Steel Company, are taking steps not only to curb water consumption, but also conserve as much water as possible by drawing on unconventional resources.
According to Mansour Yazdizadeh, managing director of Isfahan Steel Company -- Iran's third largest steel producer -- a 5km pipeline is being laid to supply wastewater from lagoons in the vicinity of Zarrin-Shahr to wastewater plants in the company.
A part of the factory's need was met in the past through water from Zayandehroud Dam, but due to the water crisis in the region and across the country the steel company was ordered to stop using fresh water until 2021.
"Consumption of potable water is estimated at 6.5 billion cubic meters per annum," Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian told the launch ceremony in Isfahan.
Around 4.3 bcm of wastewater is produced in Iran per year, of which 3 bcm is either not treated or poorly-treated, causing health and environmental problems.
The minister went on to say that releasing untreated wastewater in the environment is harmful for the fast depleting underground water tables. Nonetheless, modern technology has made it possible to process the waste and reuse it for farming and in industries.
Referring to the high cost of treating wastewater, he added that processing each cubic meter of wastewater costs $1, while it is sold at 57 cents to major industries like steel companies. He expressed the hope that farmers and industry owners use the precious resource with outmost care.
"This is the price the ministry is paying to protect the ecosystem and people's health."
It was not clear why the government was subsidizing the huge steel industry, especially at a time when the country is struggling against the new United States economic sanctions and other financial problems.
Bacteria, pathogens and parasites found in untreated sewage can threaten people’s health, causing gastroenteritis, e.coli and salmonella.