Water is required for several purposes in the manufacture of rayon and acetate fiber. These water requirements, as indicated by a survey of the water used by the plants operating in 1953, are both quantitative and qualitative.
About 300 mgd (million gallons per day) of water was used in 1953 in the preparation of purified wood cellulose and cotton linters, the basic material from which the rayon and acetate fiber is made. An additional 620 mgd was used in the process of converting the cellulose to rayon and acetate fiber. The total, 920 mgd, is about 1 percent of the total estimated withdrawals of industrial water in the United States in 1953.
The rayon- and acetate-fiber plants are scattered through eastern United States and generally are located in small towns or rural areas where there are abundant supplies of clean, soft water. Water use at a typical rayon-fiber plant was about 9 mgd, and at a typical acetate-fiber plant about 38 mgd.
About 110 gallons of water was used to produce a pound of rayon fiber 32 gallons per pound was process water and the remainder was used largely for cooling in connection with power production and air conditioning. For the manufacture of a pound of acetate fiber about 170 gallons of water was used. However, the field survey on which this report is based indicated a wide range in the amount of water used per pound of product. For example, in the manufacture of viscose rayon, the maximum unit water use was 8 times the minimum unit water use. Water use in summer was about 22 percent greater than average annual use. About 8 mgd of water was consumed by evaporation in the manufacture of rayon and acetate fiber.
More than 90 percent of the water used by the rayon and acetate industry was withdrawn from surface-water sources, about 8 percent from ground water, and less than 2 percent from municipal water supplies.
All available analyses of the untreated waters used by the rayon and acetate industry were collected and studied. The untreated waters were generally cool, low in content of calcium and magnesium, and very low in iron and manganese. At many plants, water was obtained from more than one source, and thus had different quality characteristics. Dissolved solids in all the untreated waters analyzed ranged between 14 and 747 ppm (parts per million) but in those waters used in processing the dissolved solids content was less than 200 ppm.
The cooling water used by the industry is also generally of very high quality, principally because the requirements for a high-quality process water necessitate location of the plants in areas where such water is available.
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