A sustainable future for our business is core to our strategy, and we know that healthy freshwater, soil and ecosystems are essential to the long-term success of our business, farmers’ businesses, and to communities.
Today is World Water Day, which celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2 billion people currently living without access to safe water.
This year’s focus is on groundwater – a precious but often invisible resource that we can easily take for granted.
Out of sight, under our feet, groundwater is a hidden gem. However, it plays a critical role in adapting to climate change. That’s why we need to work together to sustainably manage this precious resource.
In Australia, our business does not extract groundwater to run our factories, but we know that how we run our business – through manufacturing, wastewater treatment and irrigation – can potentially affect the groundwater below and beyond our sites.
Water plays an important part in making many of our dairy foods, and often we discharge more water than we take in. By improving processes and adopting new treatment technologies we aim to improve water quality and become even more resource efficient.
Our National Environment Manager Colleen Gates says that monitoring the quality of groundwater at our sites in Victoria is a regulatory requirement of our license to operate – it helps protect the beneficial uses of groundwater for our neighbours and our broader community.
“We have processes and procedures in place to monitor chemicals, nitrogen, and diesel fuel derivatives around our sites.
“All these things can affect groundwater, so we have appropriate controls in place to prevent any spills and subsurface drain leaks,” says Colleen.
Around our sites we also have farms where we irrigate our wastewater. This wastewater is treated and fit for irrigation, but we still pay close attention to the trends in nutrients and salts.
“Not only do we measure the groundwater depth, but we also check the pH, salinity, and concentrations of phosphorous, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate and many more chemicals and nutrients.
“We then adjust the irrigation schedule and crops that are planted to minimise seepage beyond the plant root zone and maximise uptake of nutrients into the crops, so they are removed from site during harvest,” says Colleen.
We’re also focussed on prioritising water efficiency at our sites. We’re making good progress in this space, reducing our water consumption across all our sites by 14% since 2018.
In the last six months alone, our Wynyard site in Tasmania has saved around 100,000 – 150,000 litres of water per day – that’s equivalent to the amount of water consumed by 20% of Wynyard’s households.
We did this by installing a water purification process that treats, recycles and stores the water that we already use for things like cleaning and seal water for around our equipment.
Additional opportunities still exist across the site to use more recycled water and these will continue to be incorporated into future site upgrades as they occur across the factory.
“We are committed to this journey and will continue to look for ways to reduce our water usage and protect this precious resource,” says Colleen.
We believe protecting and restoring the environment is critical to safeguard opportunities for future generations, and we’re committed to playing our part in this.