Water management:

IWEX organisers explore water usage and wastewater and effluent costs involved in brewing and food manufacturing

A report commissioned by the organisers of IWEX has looked at the attitudes to water and water utilities of a number of commercial sectors. In this article, based on the research, we look at food manufacture and brewing. Please note that all statistics quoted are based on the responses of companies taking part in the survey and not the industry sector as a whole.

The IWEX report found food manufacture and brewing are the biggest spenders on water with a total of 8% of turnover being spent on water management. 3.65% of turnover is spent on water use and 4.25% on getting rid of wastewater and effluent. Therefore, the drive to decrease water consumption by making better use of water, reducing discharges and improving effluent quality is high. More than a third of businesses interviewed said their water consumption has decreased in the last three years and a quarter expecting further decreases next year.

This is much higher than other industries where for example only 7% of agricultural businesses expect to see a reduction and for chemicals and pharmaceuticals only 6%. This is also mirrored on the wastewater side where there is a big focus on the reduction of costs through waste minimisation and 17% of businesses have decreased spend on wastewater and effluent in the past three years.

69% of food manufacturers and brewers develop their water strategies in house, which is higher than any other sector questioned. Water strategy is a boardroom issue, 42% of companies interviewed discussed water strategy at board meetings in the last six months. These companies consult widely in formulating their water strategy.

Nearly three quarters (72%) know where to go for specialist consultant support, 45% seek advice from suppliers and 59% from the water companies. This is much higher than in any other industry sector. What is interesting though is that while these sectors seem more involved with the supply market and have better relationships with the water companies - they are also the most critical group with 38% saying suppliers do not understand their business and are not focusing enough on their specific needs.

Nearly a quarter (24%) feel equipment supplier's innovation agenda does not match their own, compared to 6% in the chemical industry. This is because as the largest consumers of water, finding innovative ways of improving performance is key to the bottom line.

The political and legislative environment also means increasing pressure on these companies to improve performance. The Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations (IPP) and the Animal By-Products Regulations (ABPR), for example, will have a significant impact on these industries. Knowledge of legislation was 69% (higher than any other sector except chemicals at 76%) and most keep up with legislation through the water companies and magazines.

This again highlights the good relationship these industries have with the water companies (93% rated their water company as good or average as opposed to only 57% in agriculture and 61% in chemicals and pharmaceuticals), though 38% still felt water companies charge too much and more than half (52%) felt water companies should provide more advice on reducing water bills.

A £5.5b investment opportunity

20% of these businesses expect investment in water and wastewater to increase in the next year with key priorities being the lowering of production costs, increasing longevity of plant and improving quality of water source. Given that food and drink manufacturing alone is the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, with a turnover of £69.4b (accounting for 15.5% of the UK's total manufacturing sector) and 8% of turnover is spent on water use and wastewater management, this represents a potential market of £5.5b.

31% plan to invest in equipment in the next year compared to 18% in paper and pulp and 12% in chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In the longer term, another 45% plan to invest in next five years compared to chemicals 41% and 24% for paper and pulp. This report was commissioned by the organisers of IWEX 2005 (which takes place in the NEC Birmingham from 18-20 October) and can be downloaded from www.iwex.co.uk. IWEX 2005 will provide a forum for water consultants, equipment manufacturers, water companies and a diverse range of commercial water users to meet, discuss the latest legislation, explore the latest issues and share the latest technologies and services.


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