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Safeguarding water supplies

27 September 2021

Anthony Kolanko offers some advice on reducing water use and increasing treatment efficiency. 

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In August this year the Environmental Agency announced that it was beginning a consultation of water abstraction charges (which haven’t been reviewed in the last ten years) in order to address England’s water security. 

According to the press release ‘England is facing increased pressure on its water resources due to population growth and climate change. Based on recent projections, more than 3.4 billion additional litres per day will be needed in England by 2050, 23% more than today’s supplies. Without action, we risk of significant water shortages in parts of the country.’

The consultation, which will end on 10 November, will take into account the following factors:

• The volume of water taken from the environment.
• Where the water is taken from.
• How much of that water is returned to the environment.

It is no secret that many food processing facilities use a lot of water for their processes – examples include conveying product, washing, processing and clean-in-place (CIP) operations. Exacerbating this, remote farms and other processing facilities that are long distances existing water and drainage provisions often rely on natural water resources.

There has never been a better time for businesses to manage water more effectively and efficiently. This can be achieved by reducing the amount of water used for these processes, increasing water recycling and reuse, improving wastewater efficiency, and improving the quality of wastewater so that, where possible, it can be introduced safely back into natural environments. 

It can sometimes be difficult to know where to start – especially when taking a critical look at longstanding processes and systems. useful tips for reducing your water intake and improving overall wastewater efficiency include:

Stay compliant with environmental regulations: Whether it’s intake water or water that you’re discharging to the sewer or natural environment, staying compliant is not only the right thing to do but can prevent reputational damage, legal penalties and costly fines that result from spillages. It is worth investing in technologies that can remove solids (TSS) and other contaminants such as Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and fats, oils and grease (FOG) from your wastewater. 

Abstract less by reusing more: Improved water treatment systems allow you to reuse process and wastewater by removing a range of contaminants and allowing it to be used again in processes such as washing, conveying or cooling. Wherever possible, pay once and use multiple times. 

Improve overall efficiency by managing your grit: Grit, sediment and other inorganic solids are often overlooked in food processing, but these materials could be costing you a lot of money—these solids prevent water reuse, as well as causing equipment wear and tear from abrasion, resulting in high maintenance costs and increased downtime. Advanced grit removal systems can significantly improve your operational efficiency. 

Don’t forget about stormwater: The nature of industrial businesses, including those in the food processing industry, is such that surface water runoff may carry with it a range of potentially damaging pollutants that, left untreated, could cause significant harm to the ecosystems of receiving bodies of water. Improve your storage to prevent waste and chemicals from contaminating your surroundings (or even your own water source) and put in place safety nets such as stormwater separators and filters. 

Turn food waste into a commodity: In many food processing systems, wastewater contains biodegradable and sometimes nutrient-rich by-products. By removing these from your wastewater you will not only reduce your trade effluent costs but also gain access to a source of material that can be reused or sold on as fertiliser. 

Anthony Kolanko is global industrial business development manager at Hydro International.

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