Skip to Content

Nestlé Goes on a Water Diet

Rethinking longtime practices, a food giant dramatically cuts its water use.

The global food conglomerate Nestlé is on a campaign much like Ford’s to analyze water use at all its facilities around the world. Between 2002 and 2015 it more than doubled the amount of food it can produce with a cubic meter of water.

One plant—a Carnation factory in Modesto, California, in the heart of the state’s drought country—makes every can of Carnation evaporated milk sold in the United States. Since it opened in 1993, it has been taking in raw milk, evaporating off about half its volume as water, and throwing that “milk water” down the drain. Meanwhile, it has been taking in fresh potable water from the Modesto water utility to run the factory—to make steam to evaporate the milk, to clean food-processing equipment, to run HVAC systems and basic utilities.

The plant buys 1.7 million gallons of fresh water a week, and throws away 500,000 gallons of “milk water” in the same period.

Now that’s changing. This year, Carnation is installing reverse-osmosis equipment that will allow the plant to reuse the water it evaporates from the milk. That will help reduce by 70 percent the amount of water the plant needs to buy from Modesto.

Once Nestlé gets a second level of regulatory approval, it will start to clean and recycle all the plant’s water. Then the only new water the plant will need will come in with the milk it uses as raw material, resulting in what Nestlé calls a “zero-water” factory.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.