Texas Water Foundation, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to optimizing water use throughout the state, will convey its annual Blue Legacy Award for manufacturing companies to Cargill's Friona, Texas, beef processing facility at a state capitol ceremony in Austin on March 26. Cargill's Friona plant is the only manufacturing facility receiving a 2015 award for water conservation at the "Texas Water Day at the Capitol" event. The company was nominated for the award by the High Plains Water District based in Lubbock.
Friona is located in the Texas Panhandle, and sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest underground bodies of water on the planet. This aquifer covers 174,000 square miles in part of eight states throughout the Great Plains, including portions of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It provides water for nearly 30% of irrigated land in the United States. In Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer supplies water to 36,000 square miles spread across 48 counties.
The aquifer has been stressed by population growth, agricultural irrigation, industrial use and drought. Cargill understands the importance of water for sustainable food production. During the past six years, Cargill's Friona beef processing plant has reduced water use by 23%, saving more than 150 million gallons annually. Treated water from the plant is also provided to local farmers, reducing their need for water from the aquifer. The plant team has also created methods for capturing water used in heat exchangers and other equipment that can be reused for exterior plant cleaning.
In a related event, a landmark water rights agreement benefitting both the City of Friona and Cargill was signed in mid-2014 after a thorough assessment and reviews of numerous options. The final agreement involved the City of Friona exchanging 386 acres south of town to Cargill for 476 acres owned by the company north of town. Both parcels include water rights and Friona Mayor Pro Tem Greg Lewellen called the swap a "win/win for the city and Cargill." Friona estimates it will save millions of dollars developing water access for city use on land closer to the community, while Cargill will have water in closer proximity to its plant, reducing infrastructure and handling costs.
"Working with multiple stakeholders to find long-term answers for water issues is important to communities, the economy and the environment," stated John Keating, president of Wichita, Kansas-based Cargill Beef. "There are 2,000 wonderful people working at our Friona plant who call the area home and are supporting their families and businesses throughout the region. While the importance of water security is increasing worldwide, we believe there are innovative ways of finding solutions, such as the one that was reached in Friona."