Aurora Organic Dairy Makes Water Conservation a Priority

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Over 30 percent of Colorado is currently experiencing abnormally dry conditions, while 4 percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions. Rain levels are only 30 percent of the state’s average. A La Niña weather event, which brings less rainfall, has a 50 percent chance of developing. For obvious reasons, water conservation takes a priority when there is less rainfall.

Colorado-based Aurora Organic Dairy understands the importance of water conservation. The company’s latest Corporate Citizenship Report details its progress toward its environmental goals, including water conservation. The leading producer of organic milk for store brand retailers, the company has reduced its plant water use per half gallon of milk processed by 19 percent by 2016, compared to a 2012 baseline. That exceeds the company’s goal of a 15 percent reduction by 2017. The company is now implementing projects that will continue to reduce water use in its processing operations.

Most of the company’s water use—about 85 percent—is for irrigation. In 2015, the company began investing in smart technology for its irrigation pivots. By the end of 2016, 90 percent of its irrigation pivots were equipped with the technology. Smart technology enables the company to develop water prescriptions for each field, allowing it to apply the correct amount of water to specific areas. Aurora is currently collecting data to create a baseline and to establish an irrigation water efficiency goal, which it will announce in 2018.

Aurora’s plant in Platteville, Colo., buys water from the local municipality to process milk. Platteville is a city that imposes water restrictions on its residents; they are not allowed to water lawns and landscapes from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The city’s website proclaims, “Watering restrictions are strictly enforced.” Clearly, it is an area under water stress. Aurora has an onsite pre-treatment facility that pre-treats about 75 percent of the water the plant uses and returns it to the local sanitation district to be reused. The water that is used and not pre-treated and returned results from evaporation from the cooling systems and steam loss from the high temperatures needed to pasteurize milk. The company has a current project to save millions of gallons of municipal water annually in this process: after water is used to cool some of the processing equipment, it will be piped and reused by the evaporative cooling systems.

Aurora is also working to reduce use. It takes a considerable amount of water to produce milk. In 2012, it set a goal to reduce energy use per half gallon of milk by 15 percent by 2017. The company has made progress towards that goal. Aurora has also started exploring ways to replace aging natural gas pumps with more efficient equipment, possibly with pumps powered by wind or solar energy.

Marc Peperzak, founder and CEO of Aurora, says that throughout its 40-year history, the company has “learned that doing things more sustainably for our animals, people and the planet, is good business.” The company strives to reduce its water and energy use while business keeps growing prove its case.

Photo: Aurora Organic Dairy