When milk becomes drinking water

In the summer of 2020, water became scarce in some German districts. This isn’t the first incident to show us the importance of using resources responsibly.

A wide range of measures have been initiated throughout the DMK Group over the last few years that have reduced the fresh water consumption of Germany’s largest dairy cooperative by 5.5 percent compared to 2015. The continuous optimisation of production and cleaning processes and the identification of ways to recycle vapours have made this possible. This is also the case at the Edewecht site, as Lars Dammann, Head of Occupational Safety and Environment states: “For us, water is also an essential issue in terms of securing future operations at the site. That’s why we are working on all fronts to continuously reduce our consumption and conserve resources.”


To further reinforce these efforts, the Oldenburg East-Friesian Water Association (OOWV) and DMK are now carrying out a case-study as part of the EU research initiative “B-WaterSmart”. Together, they are looking for possible methods for lowering the consumption of drinking water in specific areas of the economy – or for developing new ways to obtain drinking water. DMK’s Edewecht site aims to treat and reuse the water extracted from milk during certain processing operations in order to produce water of drinking quality. “By using treated water, we see great potential to reduce the consumption of drinking water and thus conserve groundwater resources,” says Oliver Horstmann, who is the water and environmental protection officer at the Edewecht site. In cooperation with a plant engineer, a suitable pilot facility is due to be developed and operated there. According to Horstmann, the project must strive to develop a safe process so that the treated water meets the quality requirements of the Drinking Water Ordinance and can therefore be safely recycled as a replacement for drinking water in processes carried out at the diary. Together with the project partners, he wants to demonstrate that this ambitious project is technically feasible. If that succeeds, he believes the process could be applied at DMK sites with a drying facility. As early as last summer, the German Energy Agency declared the DMK’s Edewecht plant, with its package of measures to increase energy efficiency, including the reorganisation and optimisation of all heating processes, to be a lighthouse project. The “B-WaterSmart” initiative is part of the “Horizon 2020” EU programme and has a budget of 15 million euros, a fifth of which is designated to Germany. A total of 36 project partners from eight countries will work together over the next four years.