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Water management

Fresh water is a scarce resource that is vital for the sustainability of our societies and economies. Water is particularly important for food production. As water availability comes under increasing strain in future, this will have a significant effect on our industry. Water consumption and waste water quality are subject to stringent regulations. As a result, water management is a major sustainability priority for us.

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Optimising our water consumption

The main source of water for our sugar factories is the sugar beet plant itself. Water makes up about 75 per cent of every beet plant. We capture this water and use it in our factories, reusing it up to 20 times. Consequently, our sugar production processes are 90% water self-sufficient. The rest of our water comes from our own well, groundwater and surface water, along with municipal water. This makes our factories net producers of water.

 

Even though we have minimal fresh water requirements, we continually optimise our water management, and look for ways to reduce water consumption in all new process designs. This includes the use of sensors in sugar centrifuges that reduce the use of wash water that must be evaporated later. In line with our overall key performance indicators, we have local targets for water consumption in all our factories.

Wastewater quality

To maintain high standards of waste water quality, almost all of our sugar factories have their own efficient biological waste water treatment plants. These reduce the organic load of all effluent water by more than 90 per cent before it is reused for irrigation or returned to local water sources.

Because of this we meet the stringent EU quality requirements for discharge of water into surface water channels.

Impact

Water consumption from own well, groundwater and municipal water per tonne of sugar has been fairly constant since 2009. However, it fluctuates somewhat from year to year depending on abiotic environmental conditions such as temperature, sun and rain as well as the product mix. In 2011, for instance, the abiotic conditions were extremely good and our water consumption was lower than usual.

- Our beet factories are net water producers.
- Our sugar factories reuse water up to 20 times.
- All beet factories but one have their own efficient biological water treatment plants.