No. 35

Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million L/year of water

June, 2018

Sustainability that Matters

Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million L/year of water

Today over 30% of coffee wet mills are organic and over 50% are in transition towards this technology.

Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million liters of water per year, according to a sample of 66,000 farms whose results were reported by the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé, scientific arm of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, FNC).

The sampling took place between 2016 and 2017, and showed that development of new technologies and more efficient methods for coffee wet processing have contributed to substantial water saving.

Today over 30% of coffee wet mills are organic and over 50% are in transition towards this technology.

So more and more producers are following ecological wet processing practices, leaving behind the traditional washing method, such as washing canals, and using methods such as tub-tanks or state-of-the-art equipment such as Becolsub and Ecomill®.

A constant work to save water
Since its beginning, Colombian coffee farming had been using the traditional method for washing coffee, which uses an average 40 L of water per kilogram of dry parchment coffee (dpc).

Gradually other methods consuming less water began to be used, such as:
1. Pulping without water.
2. Transport of pulp without water.
3. Washing and classification in tub-tank, Becolsub or Ecomill®.

In the 90s, Cenicafé began to develop technologies that implied more substantial water saving in washing coffee, and by 1993 it already promoted the use of tub-tanks, which enable to wash and classify coffee in the same fermenter tank, using as much as 4 L of water per kg of dpc (that is, 10 times less than with the traditional method).

In 1995, Cenicafé made available to producers the Becolsub equipment, which consumes only 0.7 to 1 L of water per kg of dpc, with a reduction in contamination by discharges of between 90% and 91%.

The Becolsub technology has even been granted several recognitions.

More recently, the FNC, thanks to Cenicafé’s constant work, launched the Ecomill® technology (patented and manufactured in three models: with capacity for 500, 1,500 and 3,000 kg/hour of washed coffee), which consumes only 0.35 to 0.5 L of water per kg of dpc and reduces pollution by 100% by applying the resulting wastewater to the very coffee farm.

Ambitious projects accentuate water saving
On the other hand, large-scale projects such as Manos al Agua, implemented by the FNC as part of a public-private partnership with Dutch cooperation, the Nestlé and Nespresso companies, and the Colombian government, have contributed to better water resource management in the coffee regions.

Manos al Agua was implemented in 25 river basins of the same number of municipalities in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Cauca, Nariño and Valle del Cauca, and benefited a large number of farms with water savers, ecological wet mills and water treatment systems, among other interventions.

Water saving is one of the priorities of the FNC, in line with a growing global awareness of the importance of sustainability. 

You are invited to learn more about our coffee family and our products, visiting the COLOMBIAN COFFEE INSIGHTS sections on the top of this page.