How to Reduce Water Consumption in Textile Industry

How to Reduce Water Consumption in Textile Industry

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India


It is fact that, textile industry, is one of the most water-intensive industries and can easily incorporate new-age processing methods for e.g, digital printing, waterless dyeing technology, etc. to save water. The textile industry is the pillar of many developing economies. It is also purely reliant on water. Many new technologies and simple fixes are helping various mills remain competitive while reducing their dependence more on water and contributing to a good and safe environment. If is found that, from farm to factory to the favorite store, new cotton T-shirt required approximately 2,650 liters of water to cultivate, produce and transport. These issues are seen in regions facing acute water scarcity. Unfortunately, it is fact that, many of the world’s largest textile-producing nations – China, India, Bangladesh and Brazil, l are also those most unsafe to water shortages.

wastewater treatment
Fig: Wastewater treatment

Water Usage in Textile Industry:
When it comes to water consumption at textile mills, it can generate millions of gallons of dye wastewater on a daily basis. The more utilization of water adds substantially to the cost of finished textile goods through increased charges for fresh water and for sewer discharge. The amount of water required for textile processing is too more and depends from mill to mill on the basis of fabric produce, process, equipment type and dyestuff. The bigger the processing sequences, then definitely the more will be the quantity of water required.

Bulk of the water is consumed in washing at the end point of every process. Even the processing of yarns also requires huge volumes of water. The water usage for many reasons in a typical cotton textile mill and synthetic textile processing mill and the total water utilized during wet process is given in following table.

water consumption by unit process

Huge variation is observed in utilization mainly due to the use of old and new technologies and variations in the processing steps followed and the types of machines used. Every textile expert should have good knowledge of the quantity of and which type of water is used at every stage of textile processing purpose. The volume of water required for each process is tabulated below.

The volume of water required for each process

Ways to Reduction Water Consumption in Textile Mills:
Nowadays, number of methods has been developed to conserve / reduce water in and around the textile mills. Some of the techniques which can be applied are discussed here,

1. Flow reduction:
Flow reduction aims to use less amount of water in production to minimize wastewater effluents. Flow reduction can be accomplished via avoiding unnecessary water consumption due to such problems including leaks, broken or missing valves, hoses left running; this is expected to achieve about 15% savings, providing only the required amount of water to the equipment, using the proper amount of water depending on the fabric weight, using an automatic shutoffs/flow limiters, adopting the counter flow of wash water in finishing plants, i.e., scouring, mercerizing, or dyeing in continuous ranges, decreasing the amount of wash water through using high-efficiency washers, and using low wet pick-up technology, whenever possible, in textile wet processing, e.g., low add-on technique, foam technique.

1. Good Housekeeping:
A reduction in water usage of 10 to 30 percent can be done by taking strict house keeping measures. In one of the walk through audit can uncover water waste in the form of:

  1. Hoses are left running.
  2. Broken or missing valves found
  3. Excessive use of water in washing operations.
  4. Leakages from pipes, valves, and pumps.
  5. Not maintained toilets and water coolers.

Good housekeeping activities often carried out without much investments, but leading to best cost savings and the saving of water, chemicals and energy. Good housekeeping measures are very important for a company, which is major about its own behaviors.

2. Water reuse:
Water reuse systems basically reduce hydraulic loadings to treatment systems by using the same water in more than one process. Water reuse coming from advanced wastewater treatment (recycle) is not considered an in-plant control, because it does not deals with reduction of hydraulic or pollutant loadings on the treatment plant.

Water reuse is the usage of the process water more than once and this can be accomplished by using rinse water from one operation for makeup water in a second operation, e.g., mercerizing rinse water can be used to prepare scour, chlorine bleach, or wetting out baths, bleach-rinse water can be used for rinsing scoured fabric, clean-cooling water can be reused directly in other processes, e.g., hydrosulfite reduction-cooling water can be reused as indigo wash water, and cooling water can be reused in the final rinse of dyeing, steam condensate can be collected for reuse and reuse of clarified print-wastewater in washing the blankets and screens of the print machines

3. Reuse of dye liquors:
The practicality of dye liquor reuse depends on the type of dye used and the shade required on the fabric or yarn as well as the sequence of operations involved. It has already been used whilst disperse dyeing polyester, reactive dyeing cotton, acid dyeing nylon and basic dyeing acrylic, on a wide variety of machines. At, given the right conditions dye liquor can be reused up to 10 times before the level of impurities limits next use.

4. Reuse of cooling water:
Water that does not come in contact with fabric or process chemicals, which can be collected and reused directly is called as cooling water. For e.g, condenser-cooling water, water from water-cooled bearings, heat-exchanger water, and water recovered from cooling rolls, and air compressors. Because of which the water can be pumped to hot water storage tanks for reuse in various operations such as dyeing, bleaching, rinsing and cleaning where boiled water is required or used as feeding water for a boiler.

5. Reusing wash water:
One of the most famous and successful strategy applied for reusing wash water is counter-current washing. It is relatively straightforward and inexpensive method. For both water and energy savings, counter-current washing is employed regularly on continuous preparation and dye ranges. In this process, the clean water enters at the final wash box and flows opposite to the movement of the fabric through the wash boxes. With this method the less contaminated water from the final wash can be reused for the next-to-last wash and so on until the water reaches the first wash stage, where it is finally thrown out.

6. Reuse of water jet weaving wastewater:
The jet weaving wastewater can be reused within the jet looms itself or else can be reused either in desizing or scouring process, at condition that in-line filters remove fabric impurities and oils.

Different Methods to Reduce Water Consumption in Textile Industry:

1. Go for organic cotton:
It is estimated that, conventional cotton requires a large quantity of water to grow. As well as one cotton T-shirt can require as much as 2,720 litres of water to manufacture, as per Institute of Water report. Whereas, when it comes to organic cotton it uses 91 per cent less ‘blue’ water than conventional cotton, according to a 2017 Textile Exchange Research — making it a much more water-efficient choice.

2. Polyester is a double no-no:
By this time, it is known that polyester is a huge issue when it comes to water pollution, as it sheds millions of plastic microfibers when washing is carried out. Polyester majorly contributes to water pollution when it is manufactured, with the release of toxic chemicals such as cobalt, sodium bromide and antimony oxide entering waterways if not handled it properly.

3. Find out where materials are extracted:
Doing the research is very important because there is need to know where the textiles are made to establish how much of an impact its water-use is having. Various natural fibres such as silk and cellulose use a lot of water, but may be produced in a wet region, for example. “The more one can learn about how and where materials are sourced, the more informed one can be on how sustainable they are and any potential trade-offs,” highlighted Julie Brown, director of the Higg Index at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

4. Spend in low-water jeans:
Depending on how the jeans are made, they can consume huge volumes of water; a typical pair can use up to 10,850 litres to produce. That’s the reason, brands such as Outland Denim, whose fans includes the Duchess of Sussex, are offering low-water alternative. “One of the most water-engaging areas is in the washing and finishing of a jean,” as per Outland founder and CEO James Bartle. The company has started to use many innovative technologies, including laser application, to cut down on the amount of water needed for washing and bleaching by up to 65 percent.

5. Be aware about leather:
In the processing and finishing of leather it has a high water impact; a pair of bovine leather shoes is estimated to use up to 8,000 litres while manufacturing. “The processing of leather particularly requires pretty damaging chemicals; chromium six is prominently used,” was found.

6. Don’t wash clothes frequently:
One of the easiest ways to save water is simply by washing the clothes less. “Washing clothes requires a lot of water and makes a big environmental problem, so think twice before washing something that has only been gently worn and isn’t that much dirty”.

Currently, the public in textile-producing countries has become so vocal about deteriorating water quality and the lack of sufficient clean water for homes and agriculture. People in the developed countries are also beginning to demand that the garments and textile products they buy are eco-friendly and sustainable in nature. This attitude change is increasing pressure on different brands and retailers to show that their supply chains are clean and transparent. Governments also, have reacted by mandating more strong environmental legislation and by more strictly enforcing their pollution laws, which can lead to conservation / reduce of water consumption in textile and garment industry.


  1. Bergenthal, J.F. “Wastewater recycle and reuse potential for indirect discharge textile finishing mills”: Volume 1-Technical Report. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. Green Chemistry for Sustainable Textiles_ Modern Design and Approaches Edited by Nabil Ibrahim & Chaudhery Mustansar Hussain
  4. Method of reducing water consumption in textile, Md. Mazadul Hasan Shishir,
  5. Environmental pollution control: “Textile processing industry”, Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. Water conservation in textile industry by Muhammad Ayaz Shaikh, Assistant Professor, College of Textile Engineering, SFDAC.

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