A systematic approach to water reduction

The Government's Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme (ETBPP) - now Envirowise - has shown that companies which adopt a systematic approach to water reduction typically achieve a 20-50% decrease in the amount of water used. With water supply and effluent treatment charges continuing to rise, any decrease in water consumption means a gain in profitability.

Minimising water use and reducing effluent generation saved Marr Foods Ltd over £95,500 per year. Many of these savings were made through simple, inexpensive measures such as repairing leaks and replacing hoses with plastic shovels for floor cleaning (for more information, contact the Environment and Energy Helpline for a copy of Cutting Water and Effluent Costs in Fish Processing (GC20261)).

The first step to controlling water consumption is to find out how much is being used. Tracking Water Use to Cut Costs (GG152) provides an easy six-point-plan to enable managers with limited time to construct a Water Balance. This approach provides an overview of the major uses of water and will help to identify the greatest opportunities for cost savings.

For food and drink companies, where hygiene is essential, cleaning is likely to account for as much as 70% of the total water use and effluent volume. It is possible to use less water without compromising hygiene. In fact, reducing water use might reduce the risk of cross-contamination and improve health and safety conditions.

Dry clean

Encouraging dry clean up will not only reduce the amount of water used, but will also prevent solid waste entering the effluent stream and pushing up the cost of treatment. Automatic shut-off switches or trigger-operated handguns fitted to hosepipes reduce the amount of water going to waste. A range of additional measures can be found in the Envirowise publication Reducing the Cost of Cleaning in the Food and Drink Industry (GG154).

Just cutting down on the amount and strength of effluent, as well as using less water in the first place, can bring about significant savings. But purchasing new plant or upgrading existing facilities presents a good opportunity for management to take into account the full life costs of different options. Another Case Study published by the ETBPP describes how Nelsons of Aintree made net cost savings of over £236,000 per year through the introduction of a pigging system for cleaning delivery lines. The system reduces the amount of water used for cleaning, but also means that re-saleable product can be recovered instead of being lost to effluent – a double saving. More information is available from the Case Study, Pigging Cuts Costs, Recovers Product and Reduces Effluent (GC261).

For those companies that have their own effluent treatment plant, a new interactive web-site is available for sharing experience and advice. Visit Effluent Management On-line (EMO) at www.effluentonline.co.uk.

Free advice and publications are available to all UK companies through the Environment and Energy Helpline, tel: 0800 585794.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie