Water Reuse Europe member, De Watergroep, builds largest water recycling plant in Flanders for Alpro
With the floods that affected Belgium in July, it’s easy to forget just how dry the early months of the year were. There is no doubt that Flanders is in the midst of a chronic drought. To help relieve the pressure on the vulnerable aquifers of West Flanders, Alpro turned to Water Reuse Europe member De Watergroep and its expertise. This resulted in the implementation of a brand-new water recycling plant at its site in Wevelgem that is capable of converting 720,000 cubic metres of waste water every year into process water of drinking water quality.
It is well known that food producers are big consumers of water. Among other things, they use the water to grow crops, wash the food they produce multiple times and keep their production sites clean. Water is also a main ingredient in lots of their products. Alpro, a producer of plant-based dairy alternatives, has been making efforts to recycle and save as much water as possible for many years. For example, all the wastewater generated by its production sites is treated. Over the past ten years, the company has been able to reduce its water consumption per product by 20%.
372 Olympic swimming pools
Boosted by its results over the past few years, Alpro stepped up a gear last summer by deciding to invest in a large water recycling plant at its site in Wevelgem, West Flanders. For this purpose, the company called on De Watergroep to guide them through the project from start to finish. Dylan White, Project Engineer at De Watergroep’s Industry Business Unit explained: “We carried out the engineering surveys, drafted the design of the water recycling plant and oversaw the construction process. On top of that, we are also now handling its operation, as well as the quality control aspect.”
The plant has been fully up and running since the end of June 2021. “This plant will treat 720,000 cubic metres of water every year to generate process water of potable quality. In the meantime, Alpro will be able to increase the capacity of the plant to 930,000 cubic metres per year.” This would be enough to fill 372 Olympic swimming pools. “The plant is capable of processing 200 cubic metres of wastewater every hour, and it uses that to generate about 140 cubic metres of treated water per hour. That makes this project the largest water recycling plant in Flanders.”
“Overall, the plant is having a positive impact on ground water levels in water scarce West Flanders“, says Dylan White, Project Engineer, De Watergroep.
Less pressure on drinking water
This is not just a prestigious project: it is a well-considered initiative with a sustainable impact in different areas. “The plant is having a positive impact on ground water levels in water scarce West Flanders. Alpro uses recycled water of potable quality to clean its tanks and equipment; all food producers are required to do so by law, for hygiene reasons. By closing the water cycle, Alpro will be reducing significantly its consumption of freshwater from the central drinking water network. That way, we increase the capacity of the drinking water network in the region which in turn relieves the pressure on our aquifers. On top of that, the new water recycling scheme leaves Alpro better prepared to deal with periods of drought. In other words, the installation of De Watergroep makes Alpro not only more sustainable, but also more resistant to the impact of climate change.
The treated water is used as process water and does not end up in food products. “To treat the water, we use advanced treatment methods such as ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis. De Watergroep’s experience with these methods goes back more than ten years. The effectiveness of these methods was thoroughly assessed beforehand as part of multiple pilot projects. In addition, we regularly check the quality of the treated water, using the same strict parameters as we do for tap water. At certain times, we also carry out a more comprehensive analysis involving more than sixty parameters, including the presence of pesticides in the water. This enables De Watergroep to guarantee top quality water at any time.”
Alpro’s water recycling plant us the first of this size in Flanders, but if it’s up to De Watergroep, it certainly won’t be the last. The water company is fully committed to more water recycling plants of this type in the future. “Building more of these plants will help us stay capable of meeting the needs of our customers, both industrial and residential. On top of that, it will also help us contribute towards the objectives of the Flemish Government’s Blue Deal, an initiative that seeks to encourage all stakeholders involved to commit to projects that tackle drought.”
Translated and adapted from https://susanova.be/artikels/de-watergroep-realiseert-voor-alpro-grootste-installatie-voor-waterhergebruik-van-vlaanderen?share=e916027f3c9294ed61e3242029bb41d8 with the authorisation of De Watergroep and Susanova.