Signatories to the Federation House Commitment (FHC) significantly reduced the amount of water used in the manufacture of food and drink last year, saving the industry £2 million in the purchase price of water alone.
The news comes as part of the Commitment's annual progress report, published today by WRAP.
Between 2012 and 2013, signatories reduced their water use by 1.35 million m3, meaning that since the start of the FHC in 2007 signatories have collectively made a 15.6% reduction in their water use - excluding water in product. This is equivalent to 6.1 million m3 reduction in annual water use since FHC began, enough to fill 2,430 Olympic-size swimming pools, and is a particularly impressive achievement given that production increased by 8.2% at these same sites over this period.
The figures for water intensity - the amount of water needed per unit of production – also saw a dramatic reduction of 22% compared to the 2007 baseline, decreasing by 0.49 m3 per tonne of product.
The reductions have been achieved through a range of water management initiatives implemented by FHC signatories. Case studies are included within the report outlining a selection of these, including the example of Kellogg's manufacturing site in Manchester which halved its water use since joining the FHC in 2008, achieving a water intensity reduction of 55% between 2007 and 2013. A reverse osmosis water treatment system was installed at the Manchester site in 2012 enabling water to meet high quality standards for use in "grey water" applications at the factory, such as in wet scrubbers and cooling operations separate from food production. As a result of these measures the site reduced its water use by 26% in 2012.
Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP said; "Today's findings show the FHC signatories' commitment to contributing towards the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy water reduction target of 20% by 2020. I'm particularly impressed by the reduction of water-use-intensity in the last year, which continued at a rate comparable with the early stages of the Commitment, a great result since many of the easier wins have already been implemented."
Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: "Becoming more water efficient is not only good for the environment but passes on savings to companies which in turn helps create a stronger economy and fairer society. I am very pleased to see the manufacturing industry reducing its water use and I hope others will follow suit."
Managed by WRAP in partnership with the Food and Drink Federation and Dairy UK, the Federation House Commitment is supported by the Environment Agency and Defra. Today's report summarises the water savings made by signatories in 2013, as well as highlighting measures undertaken by individual companies to reduce water use at their UK manufacturing sites.
Judith Bryans, CEO of Dairy UK stated: "The dairy industry takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously and water efficiency is a top priority for Dairy UK members. The Federation House Commitment has been instrumental in encouraging water efficiency and the progress highlighted in the report reflects very positively on the industry and on the FHC for this collaborative work.
"This partnership demonstrates our industry's commitment to reducing its water consumption and builds upon and complements the water reduction targets already set by the industry's own Dairy Roadmap."
Neil Davies, Deputy Director for Site Based Regulation at the Environment Agency said "May I congratulate all signatories on the achievements they have made in reducing water use through involvement in the Federation House Commitment. The environmental and business benefits of adopting the latest approaches and techniques in water efficiency are clear, not least given the increasingly apparent impacts of climate change."