Industrial water treatment is used to optimize most water-based industrial processes, such as: heating, cooling, processing, cleaning and rinsing, so that operating costs and risks are reduced.
Scaling occurs when the chemistry and temperature conditions are such that the dissolved mineral salts in the water are caused to precipitate and form solid deposits. These can be mobile, like a fine silt, or can build up in layers on the metal surfaces of the systems. Scale is a problem because it insulates and heat exchange becomes less efficient as the scale thickens, which wastes energy. Scale also narrows pipe widths and therefore increases the energy used in pumping the water through the pipes.
Corrosion occurs when the parent metal oxidizes (as iron rusts, for example) and gradually the integrity of the plant equipment is compromised. The corrosion products can cause similar problems to scale, but corrosion can also lead to leaks, which in a pressurized system can lead to catastrophic failures.
Microbes can thrive in untreated cooling water, which is warm and sometimes full of organic nutrients, as wet cooling towers are very efficient air scrubbers. Dust, flies, grass, fungal spores and so on collect in the water and create a sort of "microbial soup" if not treated with biocides. Most outbreaks of the deadly Legionnaires' Disease have been traced to unmanaged cooling towers, and the UK has had stringent Health & Safety guidelines concerning cooling tower operations for many years as have had governmental agencies in other countries.
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