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When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water


Title quote: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746.

One story that dominated the news last year was the increase in drought conditions in Western regions of the US.  This resulted in the bottled water industry receiving negative publicity and responding by issuing facts and figures which, in turn, highlighted that other beverage segments use higher volumes of water to manufacture their end product [1][2].

The reality is that water is a necessity for all beverage manufacturers: it is the key ingredient required for every product and its availability and affordability is shrinking.  Access to a sustainable water supply is now recognised as the biggest risk to beverage companies’ long-term success and has been reassigned from the environmental responsibility agenda to the board room [3].

The “UN World Water Development Report 4. World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)”, March 2012, included the map below [4] that highlights areas of physical and economic water scarcity.

water scarcity map

Definitions and indicators:

  • Little or no water scarcity. Abundant water resources relative to use, with less than 25% of water from rivers withdrawn for human purposes.
  • Physical water scarcity (water resources development is approaching or has exceeded sustainable limits). More than 75% of river flows are withdrawn for agriculture, industry, and domestic purposes (accounting for recycling of return flows). This definition—relating water availability to water demand—implies that dry areas are not necessarily water scarce.
  • Approaching physical water scarcity. More than 60% of river ows are withdrawn. These basins will experience physical water scarcity in the near future.
  • Economic water scarcity (human, institutional, and financial capital limit access to water even though water in nature is available locally to meet human demands). Water resources are abundant relative to water use, with less than 25% of water from rivers withdrawn for human purposes, but malnutrition exists.


The “Charting our Water Future. Economic frameworks to inform decision-making (2012)” report [5] states: “by 2030, under an average economic growth scenario and if no efficiency gains are assumed, global water requirements would grow from 4,500 billion m3 today (or 4.5 thousand cubic kilometers) to 6,900 billion m3…this is a full 40 percent above current accessible, reliable supply”.

According to the Water Footprint Network (WFN), businesses’ water risk is four fold [6]:

  1. Physical risk: companies may increasingly face freshwater shortage in their supply chain or own operations.
  2. Reputational risk: the corporate image of a company will be damaged when questions arise among the public about whether the company properly addresses issues of sustainable and equitable water use.
  3. Regulatory risk: governmental interference and regulation in the area of water use will undoubtedly increase.
  4. Financial risk: above risks may translate into increased costs and/or reduced revenues.

In beverage manufacturing, financial risk is heightened as point of sale price erosion and declining sales in certain categories continue to erode profit margins.

The WFN also states that “risks can turn into an opportunity for those companies that proactively respond to the challenge of global freshwater scarcity” [6].

The beverage industry has water foot-printed its supply chain processes for a number of years to establish industry benchmarks, with individual companies setting their own water:product ratio reduction targets.  While the agriculture stage in the beverage manufacturing process consumes the largest volumes of water (agriculture as a whole accounts for 92% of global water withdrawals today (WWF [7])), there are still vast volumes of water used at the production stage, where there are some ‘quick wins’ in water consumption reduction to be found.

The WWF 2014 Living Planet Report [7] splits water usage into three ‘footprints’:


Dry Lube’s water-free conveyor lubrication can help companies to reduce consumption volumes of ‘blue water’ and ‘grey water’.


Reduced Water Consumption

A substantial volume of water is used in traditional conveyor lubrication methods, either with a wet lube or on its own.  A can packaging line will typically use up to 2.5million litres per year while a returnable glass bottle line can use 3 times as much. We have seen water:product ratios reduce as much as 0.1HL as a direct result of using our dry lubrication system.

Dry Lube’s technology requires no water in the application process.  Our lubricants are applied neat directly to the top of the conveyor belt thus reducing conveyor lubrication water volumes 100%.  As well as reducing water usage, safety levels are improved as floors are drier and the likelihood of a slip is reduced.

before and after pics
When packaging lines operate under wet conditions, biological growth will form that requires frequent cleaning with biocides.  When Dry Lube’s technology is used on can and PET lines, cleaning frequency has typically reduced, giving our customers additional water savings.

Reduced Effluent Load and Wastewater Treatment

Wet lube solutions used in packaging line lubrication need to be treated in waste-water .  Dry Lube’s optimal volume application method ensures zero excess lubricant with no lubricant ending up in effluent. Any trace amount that may be found in waste-water after line cleaning does not require further treatment and pose no contamination risk.

Reduced Financial Risk

A Dry Lube conveyor lubrication system is provided under a lease contract which includes all lubricant, spare parts and frequent service maintenance for a monthly rental & servicing fee, providing cost-assurance for at least 3 to 5 years. Duties performed by our engineers at least once a month can be found here.

In “Charting Our Water Future. Economic frameworks to inform decision-making” [5] dry lubrication was identified as a technological investment that is providing financial and operational benefits to the water stressed South Africa region.

dry lubrication south africa



Responsible water usage is fast taking over carbon emissions as the number one global environmental issue and if activity this year has told us anything it’s that the beverage industry will continue to come under scrutiny for the amount of water it consumes.  Water volumes used in line lubrication are tiny in comparison to the whole manufacturing process and supply chain but present a clear opportunity to conserve water one step at a time.

Dry Lube can perform a free conveyor lubrication water assessment to ‘footprint’ just how much water can be saved.  Get in touch.


References & Further Reading…

[1] Bottled water industry has lowest water and energy use ratios among all packaged beverages.


[2] Bottled Water – small water use, big health benefits.

[3] CDP Global Water Report 2014: From water risk to value creation.

Water insecurity is likely to constrain growth.  Almost one quarter (22%) of responding companies’ report that issues around water could limit the growth of their business. Of these, one-third expects that constraint to be felt in the next 12 months. Existing exposures may put substantial corporate value at risk.

[4] Map source and copyright: International Water Management Institute analysis done for the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture.

[5] Charting Our Water Future, Economic frameworks to inform decision-making.  Copyright © 2009 The Barilla Group, The Coca-Cola Company, The International Finance Corporation, McKinsey & Company, Nestlé S.A., New Holland Agriculture, SABMiller plc, Standard Chartered Bank, and Syngenta AG.

[6] http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/CorporateWaterFootprints

[7] WWF Living Planet Report 2014. Species and spaces,people and places.













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