Food and drink industry manufactures big water savings
Food and drink manufacturers have cut their operational water use by 14.4% thanks to an industry-wide voluntary agreement.
The savings equate to almost six million cubic metres of water - enough to fill 2,400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The progress has been welcomed, especially given that production at the sites monitored increased by 10.7% during the monitoring period.
However, there were warnings that embedded water needed to be addressed by more companies given the quantities required to produce foods for manufacturing.
For the past four years, the Federation House Agreement (FHC), managed by WRAP in partnership with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), has been helping its 70 signatories turn commitments into "real water savings".
Signatories, which now account for 24% of the food and drink manufacturing sector, have implemented a range of water saving measures.
Chocolate manufacturer and retailer Thorntons, for example, completed a detailed water audit showing 30,000 cubic metres of water was being consumed and paid for but was lost in the system. Specialists identified two underground leaks, which were repaired and will save £60,000 a year in costs.
Meat processor Tulip ran 'eco-treasure hunts' in a bid to help hit its target to reduce water use by 20% by 2015. These involved teams from different parts of the business identifying new opportunities and challenging existing practices, explained group environment manager Andrew Wright.
"The hunts identified the need to measure utility use in much great detail. We're now in the process of installing detailed monitoring and metering equipment to help us make further savings," he said.
All companies that sign up to FHC agree to make a contribution to sector savings of 20% by 2020 - against a 2007 baseline. The targets do not include water 'embedded' in the products - the water used, for example, in growing the crops.
FDF said the FHC was no designed to deal with water in products, "not least because much of that [water] is imported in raw materials from a range of sources and difficult to measure".
However, FDF is helping companies start to address this issue, and some already have set their own targets.
PepsiCo, for instance, has set a '50 in 5' target, in which it is working with supplier farms in water-stressed regions, including the UK, to reduce the impact of applied water by 50% in five years.