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3 Challenges to Water Reuse in the Food and Beverage Industry

by Leanne Hersey

The world has almost 7.6 billion people (and counting) who rely on the food and beverage industry to produce food that nourishes our population.  At the same time, the earth’s available freshwater is quickly diminishing, making water scarcity a significant threat, not only to industries, but humanity as a whole. Therefore, water reuse in the food and beverage industry is an urgent matter that comes with some significant regulatory, cultural and budgetary issues. 

1. Regulatory Challenges to Water Reuse in Food and Beverage Plants

Food and beverage manufacturers need to comply with local, state and federal environmental and production quality regulations, not to mention industry-standards. At the local level, each municipality determines how waste water from facilities must be handled and discharged. Further, layers of regulation from the state and the EPA help protect local water quality for residents at large, but sometimes interfere with a facility’s vision to treat and reuse water, even if it means further improving water quality in the area by reducing discharge. A great example would be the hesitancy to reuse wastewater for potable uses.


2. Cultural Considerations of Reusing Water in the Food and Beverage Industry

As mentioned above – many still cringe at the idea of “toilet to tap” other known as reusing certain waste waters for drinking or bathing water. However, many food and beverage manufacturing facilities already reuse some water in a variety of applications where recycled water has no contact with the end food or beverage product. For example, many plants reuse water in chillers, boilers, evaporators, to clean vehicles, floors, for irrigation and for dust mitigation. Some even reuse water to flush toilets at the facility.

Reusing water during the cooking, cleaning and end-product production, however, still remains a significant cultural hurdle, although technologies such as industrial reverse osmosis water treatment systems exist that can generate recycled water even purer than municipally treated drinking water. Water treated with these advanced technologies can be used, even now, as boiler feed water, ice, steam, food cleaning, preparation and ingredient water.


3. Budgetary Considerations for Water Recycling in the Food and Beverage Industry

Today, water recycling and reuse technologies exist that can recover up to 98 percent of a facility’s water. Yet, many decision makers hesitate to upgrade equipment, largely for financial reasons. However, in view of increasing water insecurity, implementing industrial water treatment systems to reuse and recycle water can be seen as an investment in the company’s and planet’s future. Food and beverage facilities can also see a significant decrease in water spend as they reduce the need for outside water resources and improve their own water security situation against drought and other environmental or municipal infrastructure problems. These savings in operational expenditures can often times offset capital expenditures in as little as 12 months. Food and beverage factories that upgrade their water treatment systems will improve their ability to adapt to uncertain outside water resource situations and adhere or even surpass corporate sustainability goals.

Contact Desalitech’s food and beverage water reuse and recycling specialists today at 1-617-564-1647. Or, request a free assessment today, and we will get in touch with you in the next 24 hours.


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