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Water and wastewater optimization in a food processing industry using water pinch technology


Geosciences and geoethics emerge at the core of a globally increasing demand of resources and the risk of scarcity for the new generations, promoting social, economic and environmental awareness, better management of resources and our commitment to environmental issues. According to the United Nations World Water Assessment Program, water consumption rates increased in the last decades and this trend is likely to continue over the coming years. Driven by climatic hazards due to human activities or by the denaturation of freshwater sources, in certain regions of the planet, water is becoming increasingly scarce, already facing water supply deficits, water resources must be saved as much as possible. The industrial sector accounts for a considerable volume of freshwater consumption, lagging behind the agriculture sector. Nonetheless, the global annual water used in industry is expected to increase and, particularly, much of this increase will occur in developing countries, experiencing rapid industrial progress. The present work deals with a case study of the intervention and adaptation of a wastewater treatment process of a food company. Through a water pinch analysis, within the concept of circular economy, it is envisaged to improve the efficiency of the water management system through a reduction in water and energy use and also wastewater generation. The introduction of new stages in the treatment process is proposed to allow the reuse of treated wastewater and to reduce raw water consumption from natural sources. This research points to the use of phytoremediation processes combined with ion exchange columns, packed with a mix of cationic and anionic resins. The results were promising and point to an intervention proposal with a reduction of up to 55% in the consumption of raw water and a 45% reduction in the volume of treated wastewater sent for discharge.

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Adapted from Mann and Liu (1999)

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Thanks are due for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2019, UIDB/50017/2020, UIDP/50017/2020), to FCT/MEC through national funds, and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020. Likewise, it is acknowledged the financial support to REQUIMTE, the Associate Laboratory for Green Chemistry-LAQV, through national funds from FCT/MCTES (UIDB/50006/2020), co-financed by the ERDF under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007265).

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Correspondence to Tiago Abreu.

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Lima, A., Abreu, T. & Figueiredo, S. Water and wastewater optimization in a food processing industry using water pinch technology. Sustain. Water Resour. Manag. 7, 82 (2021).

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  • Circular economy
  • Effluent treatment
  • Wastewater
  • Water pinch analysis
  • Water reuse