Water reuse guide launched for dairy processors

A set of guidelines into water reuse at dairy manufacturing plants has been prepared by Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd (DIAL). The guidelines identify water sources and quality within dairy factories, and matches these with possible uses.

It covers various levels of water treatment, taking into account microbial risks and HACCP analysis. DIAL’s senior process engineer, Dr Nohemí Quispe-Chávez, said that “this guideline will consolidate and build on existing information and be available to share across the industry.”

Dairy manufacturing generates non-potable water as a by-product of equipment rinsing, evaporation and membrane processes.

While much of this water is recycled on or off site, there is potential to increase the amount recycled on site and curb potable water use. Initiatives already underway within the industry include improved measurement, installation of water-saving equipment, optimising clean-in-place (CIP) processes and employee education.

According to Dr Quispe-Chávez “use of recovered water must take into consideration quality and hygiene requirements of manufacturers and their customers, as well as the economic and environmental factors of sustainability.

“Recovered water is typically available from several areas of dairy processing operations such as evaporator condensate, CIP final rinse, intermediate product flush water, reverse osmosis permeate, and crate washing.

“It is used in a variety of applications such as boiler feed water, wash down water, in the tanker bay and as pump seal water. It can be used as CIP make-up water and cooling tower make up. Some plants use it for farm irrigation or grant it to the community to water golf courses, school ovals or wetlands,” she said.

The launch of the guide follows the release in January of a literature review into water recycling for dairy food processing. In addition, there have been site visits to plants in Victoria and Queensland and interviews conducted with experts in the food industry, technology suppliers, practitioners and regulators.

The initiative is aiming for a target 25% reduction in potable water use across the industry. A 2005 study into the Australian Dairy Manufacturing Industry found that 36 sites surveyed used 10,000 ML/year of fresh water and recycled an additional 2000 ML of condensate, a reuse rate of 17%.

Dr Quispe-Chávez added that “DIAL is currently completing a water recycling and reuse project that aims to identify and document current practices in water reuse and recycling in dairy manufacturing plants and to review the latest technology for water recycling.”

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