Fish merchants F Smales & son combined good conservation and business efficiency to slice £30,000 off their annual water bills and they've now won a top award recognising their achievements.

The Hull-based company was awarded first place in the Envirowise Industry and Business category at the Water UK & Environment Agency Water Efficiency Awards 2001 held in London recently.

The Award, supported by Envirowise, recognises good practice water efficiency and conservation projects in the UK. Beating 29 other entries ranging from laundries and printers to fish merchants and automotive manufacturers, Smales won the award on the grounds that they have achieved significant reductions in water consumption and effluent by making low cost changes to its fish production methods and promoting water efficiency to staff.

Led by the company's waste minimisation champion, Peter Greendale, and working closely with the Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), the company has achieved a 39 per cent reduction in water consumption and made savings of around £30,000 in 2001.  Annual consumption for this year is expected to be 45 per cent lower than in 1998 when the project began.

The involvement of personnel was key to the project's success and from the outset staff were made aware of water efficiency issues and the importance of the project to the company.

Following a water audit, meters were fitted at each section to quantify the amounts of water used during the various fish cleaning and production processes. These figures were then used to set consumption targets for each part of the factory and a number of methods were implemented to actively reduce consumption; including, fitting manual triggers to the hoses used by filleters, replacing the factory freezer and altering the fish washing process so water is only used on demand and not running constantly.

Smales have also reduce the volume and improved the quality of effluent leaving the site through lowering water consumption. Staff were asked to minimise the amount of waste entering the drains and many of the drains were fitted with new covers so that solid waste would be retained on the factory floor.

Colin Smales, company chairman said: "We are delighted to have won this award. It is very satisfying that Peter, factory management, line leaders and indeed our entire factory workforce have contributed towards these significant savings and cost effectiveness. We also recognise the invaluable guidance and input from Seafish."

Lee Cooper, Seafish Training Advisor said: "Seafish has worked closely with Peter Greendale and Smales on this project and we are very pleased that they have received recognition of their forward thinking. Seafish has developed a waste water and effluent minimisation training programme which provides the skills and knowledge needed for someone in a fish processing company to effectively monitor water use and effluent production and take appropriate steps to minimise it.  I urge other fish processing companies to consider this as a cost-effective investment."

A Seafish fact sheet on Guidance for Waste Water and Effluent Minimisation is available on the Seafish website, www.seafish.co.uk