Oregon Water Stewardship

Lamb Weston works hard to contribute positively to our communities.

As part of this effort, we take water stewardship and environmental compliance very seriously and are always in search of ways to use this important resource more efficiently. We do this through many efforts, from our highly targeted irrigation system at our company and partner farms, to water efficiency programs at our processing plants, to selecting low-flow fixtures for our office spaces. 

How are you helping the community?

We’ve joined a coalition of local businesses in Morrow County to help fund the Morrow County Health Department’s Safe Drinking Water Filtration Project. Through the coalition, we have provided support to distribute information on free well testing, availability of bottled water, and financial support for water filtration systems in the area. The Coalition includes a number of area businesses including: Beef Northwest, Boardman Foods, Calbee America, Lamb Weston, Oregon Potato, PGE, Threemile Canyon Farms and Tillamook County Creamery Association. 

Why is process water used for irrigation?
How do you monitor nitrogen?

Recently, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued what’s known as a pre-enforcement notice (PEN) regarding our authorized land application program. This has raised questions – and some misconceptions – about this program. While we are working closely with the DEQ and third-party experts in hydrology to address the allegations in the PEN, this overview is meant to provide some additional information.

First, our land application program complies with the local requirements for re-using our process water to irrigate crops. For example, in Boardman, we send our process water to the Port of Morrow (POM) under an existing municipal ordinance. The POM treats the water and manages the land application program. Lamb Weston works directly with the POM to ensure the treated process water that leaves our facilities meets the local ordinance requirements.

One critical element of our water stewardship program is beneficial reuse of process water for irrigation. Because many of our facilities are in rural areas, water used to wash and process our potatoes is treated and sent to area farms to irrigate crops under state monitored permits. This is beneficial to Oregon’s future water goals when it comes to climate and drought resilience, agricultural practices and sustainability.

At every step of our process, we consider the water quality, including nitrogen content. Nitrogen occurs naturally in potatoes, and because water is used to process our potatoes (washing, blanching and more) there is often potato solids in the water at the end of our manufacturing process. This means there is also nitrogen content in the water, which our treatment systems address before the water leaves our facilities.  

How is Hermiston unique?
How do you monitor and measure critical water quality data?

At our Hermiston facility, we’ve invested in a $30 million water treatment facility. This sophisticated facility treats the water used to process our potatoes before it is re-used or sent to area farms for irrigation.  

Specifically in Hermiston, our water treatment facility has a state-of-the-art biological nutrient removal system paired with ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis to fully treat the water back into a clean reusable state. This allows us to reuse the water in our facility and reduce our daily water consumption by almost 40%. This is unique – very few processing facilities are able to treat and reuse water in their manufacturing processes.

The Hermiston treatment facility specifically targets nitrogen reduction, and the investment in this facility has allowed us to reduce the daily amount of nitrogen in our treated water by nearly 38% in the last four years. This efficiency in nitrogen reduction is promising work, and we continue to focus in this area, hoping to continue this trend.

For water that is sent to area farms for irrigation, we work closely with the farmer, experienced agronomists, and soil scientists to closely monitor the treated process water and land application system to minimize overirrigation and overapplication of nitrogen.  

· Soil moisture readings are taken weekly during the growing season and twice a week during the non-growing season to ensure we do not over irrigate.

· Weekly rain gauge readings and daily treated process water runtimes determine irrigation amounts sent to specific fields.

· Treated process water samples are taken weekly and sent to a third-party laboratory for analysis and the information from this analysis is used to calculate nitrogen loading for each field.

· Soil samples are collected after crop harvest to document soil nitrogen content to inform decisions on irrigation.

Lamb Weston is committed to water stewardship and continues to invest in processes and systems that improve our water efficiency and our land application program, with a focus on reducing nitrogen levels and protecting the environment.