We feel it is our responsibility to optimize water use not only in water-stressed regions of the world but in all of our facilities through conservation and reuse.
Our water management approach is based on a global mapping process that enables us to establish relative water withdrawal and discharge risks in our portfolio.
Typically, our water withdrawal risks are associated with sites that have a higher water intensity and are operating in water-stressed areas. The majority of our operations have low water-use impacts and are not subject to restraints.
Risks we evaluate include:
- Availability of clean water resources;
- Local water restraints, especially in water-stressed regions;
- Water quality; and
- Regulatory and financial impacts, including constraints from local communities, other water users, the ability to obtain water rights and permits, and regulatory restrictions.
We rank our sites based on water usage, scarcity risk and other factors, and we update the ranking each year to reflect water usage changes and sites that are acquired or sold.
To address our water risks, we ensure water consumption is a focus at all plants – not just those considered higher risk – by including the metric in each plant’s environmental scorecard. This increases visibility into our water use at the local, regional and global level and also encourages our employees to remain engaged and committed to conserving this valuable resource.
Much of the water we use is for equipment cleaning rather than products, and we are improving our processes to require less cleaning while maintaining our high quality standards. We continue to evaluate additional opportunities to reuse wash water in our processes and products.
We are moving toward manufacturing more water-based coatings compared to solvent-based ones. While this may cause our water consumption to increase, the net environmental benefit will be positive.
In 2018, our intensity was 4.22 cubic meters per metric ton of production, which was 7.3 percent lower than 2017. Globally, we withdrew 17.6 million cubic meters of water during the year, a 6.5 percent reduction compared to prior year.
We manage our discharges to water according to local regulations, and we monitor and report water quality as required. In some cases, we are required to treat discharge water prior to release.
Some of our operations are located near waterways, such as rivers or streams. To address this risk, we focus on spill elimination and spill control and response. (See the spills section under Waste.) Risks associated with spills and releases having off-site impact include clean-up costs, future liabilities and reputational risks.