Reduction of Water Consumption and Pollution in the Corn Masa Production Process

EPA Grant Number: SU834326
Title: Reduction of Water Consumption and Pollution in the Corn Masa Production Process
Investigators: Okos, Martin R. , Birt, Lindsey , Najm, Majdi Abou , Piepenburg, Jayne , Probst, Kyle , Zawadsky-Weist, Maya
Institution: Purdue University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $9,112
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Maize (corn) is the principle food source in Mexico accounting for approximately 70 percent of the total calorie intake and 50 percent of the total protein intake (Paredes and Saharopulos, 1983). Maize is primarily used to produce masa, a maize based dough. In Mexico there are currently over 100,000 small and 25 large masa manufacturing facilities which consume over 2.2 billion gallons of water (INEGI, 1999). Water conservation is of utmost importance in part because up to 54 percent of the population in Mexico will experience physical water scarcity by the year 2025 (Barker et al., 2000). About 83 percent (1.8 billion gallons) of water consumed for masa production is disposed of as wastewater or nejayote. The high pH (11-13) and high pollutant levels (BOD of 8,000 mg/L, COD of 25,000 mg/L and TSS of 20,000mg/L) of nejayote is potentially harmful to several environmental ecosystems. Most past attempts to reduce nejayote have failed because changes in the traditional masa production process also cause changes in final product quality. Masa production processes and the masa product quality have been the same for thousands of years causing resistance to masa production process changes. Therefore, traditional masa production processes must be maintained while reducing water consumption and nejayote discharge by masa manufacturers.


A recycling process for masa production water can reduce water consumption and nejayote discharge. The goal of our project is to minimize water consumption without changing masa quality. Nejayote must still be discharged after the recycled water reaches a maximum residue saturation level. It has been further hypothesized that saturated nejayote could be treated in order to recover a value added product(s). A series of pilot tests will be conducted in order to generate nejayote for 5, 10 and 20 recycle times followed by proximate and mineral analyses. Based on the results different recycling/treatment methods will be evaluated using a matrix analysis of selected criteria.


The initial study proposed will help to determine 1) the feasibility of the overall goals of this project, 2) potential value added products, and 3) the acceptability of the new process into current masa manufacturing facilities. These three main points may be furthermore used as educational tools in teaching about the importance of water conservation in Mexican communities as well as to educate University students about non-US cultural emphasis on tradition.

Expected Results:

First, it is within the scope of the project to assure cultural acceptance of any proposed process changes incorporated into the masa production process. Solutions or options that could be considered but are not limited to include fertilizer and feed source. Next, water reduction, both for improved water availability as well as reduced nejayote discharge, will be important issues that must be solved in order to reach the consumed water reduction goal. Last, extraction of value added products from the discharged Nejayote should make implementation of the new masa production process acceptable by manufacturing entities, masa consumers, and value added product consumers.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

recovery and reuse of materials through system design, sustainable urban planning, environmentally benign endpoints, resource recovery, sustainability, process sustainability, cultural sustainability, green manufacturing,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report