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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment
Food Processing Facilities

Water Saving Tips for Food Processing Facilities

GENERAL SUGGESTIONS

  • Appoint a water conservation coordinator with the responsibility and authority for the water conservation program.
  • Make the plant manager and other employees aware of the water conservation coordinator's function.
  • Increase employee awareness of water conservation:
    • Explain the importance of individual actions to the success of the program.
    • Seek employee ideas for water conservation using contests, rewards, and suggestion boxes.
    • Read water meter daily to monitor and report the success of water conservation efforts.

SURVEY THE PLANT

A plant survey helps to establish facility water savings potential by identifying areas where water is wasted or where water could be reused.

  • Identify the major water lines. Determine the quality, quantity, and temperature of water carried by each.
  • Identify all points where water is used, including hose connections. Determine the quantity of water used at each point.
  • Determine the capacity of each water-containing unit and frequency of emptying.
  • Determine the capacity of each continuous discharge not yet being reused.
  • Determine flow rates in floor gutters and whether the flows are adequate to prevent solids accumulation.

EVALUATE SURVEY

  • Review the information developed during the survey to identify the major water-using operations and review the water re-use practices currently employed.
  • Develop plans to improve re-use:
    • Evaluate the feasibility of installing cooling towers.
    • Study the potential for screening and disinfecting reclaimed water to increase the number of times it can be re-used.

MAXIMUM WATER-USE EFFICIENCY

  • Install high-pressure low-volume nozzles on spray washers.
  • Use fogging nozzles to cool product.
  • Install in-line strainers on all spray headers; inspect nozzles regularly for clogging.
  • Adjust pump cooling and flushing water to the minimum required.
  • Use conveying systems that use water efficiently.
    • Handle waste materials in a dry state when possible.
    • Use conveyor belts for product transport; preference should be given to "rabbit- ear" or "V" shaped roller supports because these are much easier to clean.
    • Use pneumatic conveying systems wherever possible.
    • Use flumes with parabolic cross sections rather than flat- bottom troughs.
  • Establish optimum depth of product on conveyors to maximize wash water efficiency.
  • Replace water-intensive units with alternatives - Rubber-disk units for raw product cleaning and peeling, Steam for water blanchers, or Evaporative coolers for hydrocooling systems.
  • Determine whether discharges from any operation can be substituted for fresh water supplied to another operation.
    • Divide the spray wash units into two or more sections and establish a counter flow re-use system.
    • Use reclaimed water for flushing floor gutters.
    • Replace high-volume hoses with high pressure, low-volume cleaning systems.
    • As equipment wears out, replace with water-saving models.

AVOID WASTE

  • Equip all hoses with spring loaded shutoff nozzles. Be sure these nozzles are not removed.
  • Instruct employees to use hoses sparingly and only when necessary.
    • Adjust flows from recirculation systems (washers, flumes) by controlling the rate of makeup water:
    • Install float-controlled valve on the makeup line.
    • Close filling line during operation.
    • Provide surge tanks for each system to avoid overflow.
  • Turn off all flows during shutdowns (unless flows are essential for clean-up). Use solenoid valves to stop the flow of water when production stops. The valves could be activated by tying them to drive motor controls.
  • Adjust flows in sprays and other lines to meet the minimum requirements.

EVALUATE CLEAN-UP PROCEDURES

  • Sweep and shovel solid materials from the floor; do not use hoses for this purpose:
    • Provide an adequate number of receptacles for collecting solids.
    • Empty the receptacles frequently to prevent odor and insect problems.
  • Inventory all cleaning equipment (such as hoses) provided in the plant:
    • Determine the number and types of units provided.
    • Evaluate their frequency of operation; and
    • Use more water-efficient equipment where possible.
  • Inventory all cleaning chemicals used in the facility to determine:
    • Are they are being used correctly?
    • Are they water use efficient?
    • Control belt sprays with a timer to allow for the intermittent application for chlorinated water.

EXTERIOR AREAS

  • Discontinue using water to clean sidewalks, driveways, loading docks, and parking lots.
  • Consider using mobile sweepers and vacuums.
  • Wash autos, buses, and trucks less often.
  • Avoid plant fertilizing and pruning that would stimulate excessive growth.
  • Remove weeds and unhealthy plants so remaining plants can benefit from the water saved.
  • In many cases, older, established plants require only infrequent irrigation. Look for indications of water need, such as wilt, change of color, or dry soils.
  • Limit landscaping additions and alterations. In the future, design landscapes requiring less water.
  • Install soil moisture overrides or timers on sprinkler systems.
  • Time watering, when possible, to occur in the early morning or evening when evaporation is lowest.
  • Make sure irrigation equipment applies water uniformly.
  • Mulch around plants to reduce evaporation and discourage weeds.
  • Remove thatch and aerate turf to encourage the movement of water to the root zone.
  • Begin a flexible watering schedule, watering only when needed, and not on windy or rainy days.
  • Avoid runoff and make sure sprinklers cover just the lawn or garden, not sidewalks, driveways, or gutters.

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