Dairy producers may be unaware they are using higher volumes of water than necessary and should be encouraged to benchmark water use, according to a water conservation expert.
Five years of water consumption data from 53 dairy companies, which included dairy farms and processors, across the UK revealed significant differences in the volume of water used to produce milk, butter and cheese, and that more than 60 per cent of the sites were using water inefficiently.
Dr David Campbell, associate professor of water conservation at Heriot-Watt University, says: “The UK uses around 40.9 billion litres of water each year to produce 14 billion litres of milk.
"The huge volumes of water being used means it is critical for the UK dairy sector to start benchmarking its water use, and aiming for more comprehensive water management schemes.
“By improving efficiency, water and wastewater bills could be reduced by 30 per cent, which is a further incentive to dairy producers, alongside improving the sector’s overall sustainability credentials.
“This isn’t about introducing new regulation or burdensome tasks – it’s about saving money for producers and increasing sustainability.
“We can tell from the data that some producers already use water conservation measures, and those who use the highest amounts of water might simply be unaware they are at the upper end of the chart. At the moment, there is no way for them to know.”
Dr Campbell is now appealing for funding to develop an app to enable widespread benchmarking in the field of industrial water conservation.
While dairy producers have been encouraged to reduce their water use by 20 per cent by 2020, there is currently no way for them to benchmark their performance.
The UK’s food and drink sector is the greatest industrial consumer of water in the UK, and the dairy sector uses 21 per cent of the UK’s fresh water resource.