Water is an issue of strategic importance to the food industry; it is the lifeblood of the industry. Water is an essential input both as an ingredient and as an element in the making of food products. Clean water is also critical for food safety. Further, agriculture, which is the source of the food industry’s raw materials, is a major use of water.

In recent Food Northwest Sustainability workshops, food companies identified water as one of the industry’s top challenges. Water challenges include: water supply and cost concerns, water quality, altered hydrologic cycles due to climate change, population growth and increased demand for water, wastewater treatment.

Challenges, however, also present opportunities for innovation, more efficient operations, as well as business development and community relations. To identify opportunities, companies need to address water issues strategically. This means developing and implementing a water management program that is incorporated into business planning. Food Northwest's Sustainability Committee set a priority to provide companies the tools and resources they need to develop and implement sustainability plans and actions, and with a focus on the area of water sustainability.

Food Northwest Water Sustainability Training Course

water circleThe course consists of three modules: Watershed & Water Balance; Water Economics/Water Risks/Water Quality; and Water & Energy Management Opportunities. It is designed to educate and engage facility line, supervisory, maintenance, engineering and management staff on the importance of water sustainability and the activities to achieve efficient and cost effective water use. In addition to the modules, instructional materials are available so that an on-site staff “trainer” can prepare and deliver a facility-specific course to fellow employees.

DOWNLOAD: Water Sustainability Training Materials

Facility Water Assessment

Identifying water sources and uses, data gathering and establishing a baseline are critical elements in developing and implementing a strategic water management program. Food Northwest's Water Facility Assessments presents the results and lessons learned from water assessments that it conducted at food processing facilities.

Tools and Resources

Food Northwest has a Sierra InnovaSonic Model 210i portable ultrasonic flow meter which can be borrowed by members of the association. Contact Kirsten to check out this useful tool. 

At the Crest of a Wave: A Proactive Approach to Corporate Water Strategy”, The Pacific Institute, September 2007.

Developing a Corporate Water Management Strategy for Manufacturers: Lessons Learned from the DOE Better Buildings Challenge Water Savings Pilot”, U.S. Department of Energy, April 2016.

Lean & Water Toolkit: Achieving Process Excellence Through Water Efficiency”, Environmental Protection Agency

GEMI Collecting the Drops: A Water Sustainability Planner Tool”, Global Environmental Management Initiative

GEMI Connecting the Drops: Toward Creative Water Strategies”, Global Environmental Management Initiative