Woodlands Dairy water recovery plant saves 217 000 cubic metre water

1st March 2023 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Woodlands Dairy water recovery plant saves 217 000 cubic metre water

South African dairy manufacturer Woodlands Dairy has successfully commissioned a water recovery plant which has saved about 217 000 m3 of water.

The plant, commissioned in March 2017, had recovered about 46% of the operation’s onsite wastewater by the end of 2022, with ambitions of ultimately recovering 60%.

The plant purifies wastewater up to SANS 241 standard, equivalent to potable water.

Natural resources are being consumed faster than they are being replaced, says Woodlands Dairy sustainability manager André Adendorff, noting that the scarcity of natural resources has escalated amid growing demand, which has caused their financial value to rise.

As part of improving its own water balance, Woodlands Dairy has started recycling water, with a focus on reducing its water consumption, decreasing its demand for municipal water and decreasing its effluent discharge.

“Our focus on reducing water consumption is not only for financial benefit, and protecting the natural environment, but also to alleviate our load on the municipal infrastructure,” he says.

The plant, leveraging a process of reverse osmosis that purifies the water up to SANS 241 standard for potable water, can treat up to two-million litres of effluent water, excluding sewerage, a day.

“Methane gas from the bioreactor is used to fire a biogas boiler, which produces 10% of the factory’s steam requirements,” Adendorff explains.

During 2022, Woodlands Dairy’s total water demand from the municipality was only 54% of its needs, with the balance of 46% recycled water from the plant.

“Our water saving [to date] through recycling amounts to an impressive 217 000 m3 of water,” he highlights.

The water footprint per litre of milk processed for 2022 was 1.25 ℓ, lower than the 1.28 ℓ target.

Additional water sourcing initiatives were implemented, including rainwater harvesting and borehole water sources, he continues.

“A total of 31 000 m3 of water was sourced up to the end of December 2022 from these two sources. We intend to implement the water efficiency management system, the ISO 46001 standard, soon.”

Since implementing the wastewater recovery plant, in addition to revealing the potential for improvements on water use strategies for the dairy, it has also revealed spinoff benefits to the communities in the region.

“The sustainable use of recycled water at Woodlands Dairy plays a key role in enhancing urban and community water supplies, such as in the water-scarce Kouga municipal area,” he says.

Woodlands Dairy started its sustainability journey in 2012 and has aligned its sustainability initiatives to consider the objectives of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

“These interlinked goals are a blueprint for a peaceful and prosperous future for all, with an emphasis on protecting the environment for future generations,” Adendorff concludes.