Switzerland-based Nestlé announced yesterday that work has begun to transform its Carnation Evaporated Milk plant in Modesto, California into a 'zero water' facility, which means it will not use any local freshwater resources for its operations.
Water extracted from milk to produce Carnation Evaporated Milk will be used in operational tasks, such as cleaning and cooling.
"This 'zero water' approach, where water from the milk is reused would not be appropriate for a bottling plant, but other options such as using grey water rather than potable water in cooling towers can also deliver savings," a Nestlé spokesperson told DairyReporter.com.
Nestlé is scheduled to complete the project at Modesto in late 2016.
It expects to save nearly 63m gallons of water - approximately 71% of the plant's 2014 water usage - each year at Modesto.
Alongside its 'zero water' project at Modesto, Nestlé is ploughing money into technology to reduce the amount of water it uses at its water bottling plants and food and pet care product manufacturing facilties in California.
It has identified potential annual water savings of more than 26m gallons at its Bakersfield and Tulare Dreyer's ice cream plants.
Nestlé has come under fire for its water bottling operations in California, which is into its fourth year of drought.
The company's Modesto Carnation Evaporated Milk plant, for example, sits in an area currently in the midst of an 'Extreme Drought', according to the US Drought Monitor.
"We understand the concern about the drought and its effects and the increase scrutiny on our bottling operations in recent weeks," the Nestlé spokesperson said. "Our focus and effort has been on scrutinising the operations of all of our plants in California - asking the question, 'Can we build on what we have already done to improve our water use efficiently and go further'."
"Nestlé has committed to improving the water efficiency of its operations globally for many years now. We have a global commitment to reduce our water withdrawal per tonne of product by 40% by the end of this year compared to 2005 across all of our portfolio."
"It makes sense during a drought to look for conservation measures at each and every plant, as well as at our offices - wherever we operate in the state," the spokesperson continued.
Nestlé unveiled its first 'zero water' manufacturing site in the "water-stressed" Mexican state of Jalisco in October 2014.
Water extracted at the Jalisco plant during the production of Nido powdered milk is used for cooling and cleaning.
Nestlé was awarded the Corporate Water Stewardship Award at the 2015 Global Water Awards for its efforts in Mexico.
"Once the 'zero water' approach was successfully implemented at our factory in Mexico, Nestlé immediately started to look for other sites where we would apply the technology," the Nestlé spokesperson said.
"Each factory is different - you have to look at whether the approach what works in Mexico will work at a different plant."
"The decision to go ahead was taken once we were confident that the technology would deliver the necessary savings," the spokesperson added.
Following recognition at the Global Water Awards, Nestlé revealed plans to install technology at dairy plants in other "water-stressed" areas of South Africa, Pakistan, India and China.