Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NE288B

Water Usage in the Food Industry

Institute: Nebraska
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $17,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $34,018

Principal Investigators: Bing Wang, Rolando Flores, Jayne Stratton

Abstract: Water scarcity is adversely affecting U.S. agriculture with potential implications for decreasing the food supply and raising prices. The food industry alone is responsible for 30% of water consumption in all manufacturing sector combined. Water conservation through reconditioning and reuse of wastewater in the food industry is a promising alternative to reduce water footprint from different food products. The dairy industry, is an important sector in Nebraska that has potential for water reconditioning and reuse. Some dairy processing wastewater streams are reasonably clean and could be recycled or reused such as service water, steam condensate and heating water. Using suitable technology, specific streams could be reconditioned to reach the quality required in other more sensitive operations, like cleaning. An important hurdle is that limited data is available about the water usage in food processing operations, and about the implications of using reconditioned water in food processing plants, which is key information to motivate implementation of water conservation initiatives. The research project proposed here aims to fill the gap of information on the actual water usage in fluid milk processing in Nebraska. The following specific objectives are proposed to reach that goal. Objective 1: Determination of water and energy consumption in one fluid milk processing plant in Nebraska Objective 2: Performing a risk-based simulation to determine the suitable operation(s), within the processing plant, for reuse of the recovered water; without compromising the safety of the final product. A local processing plant (Nebraska, USA) will be visited to determine water and energy usage. The approach for objective 1 will be divided into two steps: Data collection will include flow rates of utilities on each unit operation throughout the process and continuous monitoring. Energy usage will be monitored using existing electric meters and temporary meters with data loggers. For objective 2 a risk- based simulation model will be developed to describe the changes in concentration of the pathogens of interest through the pathway, with a final output of the probability distribution of pathogen load per liter of reconditioned water recovered. The data to populate the model will be obtained from microbial testing in wastewater at plant level and from published literature. Successful completion of this project can provide a valuable example of how assessment of the water and energy nexus combined with risk-based simulation can overcome cost and risk barriers to successful implementation of water reuse in the food industry.