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WATER USE IN CAR MANUFACTURING: OVER 100 MILLION CUBIC METRES USED BY MAJOR COMPANIESThat's 40,000 Olympic-size pools!
By Cori Marshall
Water is not generally the first thing we think of when we think of the automotive industry. We tend to think of design, handling, fuel economy, performance, horsepower, colour, and luxury. There may not be a tremendous amount of water involved in the operations of a motor vehicle, there is, however, a surprising amount of water that is used in the production and manufacturing process.
We looked at the water management strategies of five major automobile manufacturers to see just how much water is used to produce their cars and trucks. All five have taken different routes to reducing the amount of water used to produce a vehicle, but all five recognize the importance of the resource and have to minimize and optimise their usage.
Toyota Motor Company's (TMC) approach to water conservation is its two-measure plan. According to TMC the plan consists of "a comprehensive reduction in the amount of water used, and water purification and returning it to the earth." To this end, the company has implemented "rainwater collection, [and] filtering to increase the recycling rate."
In 2015 TMC used 29.3 million cubic metres of water globally at vehicle assembly plants. This averages out to 2.7 cubic metres of water per unit.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) viewed water scarcity as "one of the primary challenges facing governments, communities, businesses and individuals." FCA underlines that it "periodically maps the availability of water resources around the world", and creates a kind of balance sheet of what is available and what they use in each region.
In 2015, its 147 plants withdrew or used 24.9 million cubic metres of water while discharging 19.6. The interesting fact here is that FCA covered 98.9% of its water needs through recycling its water.
Honda Group provided very little contextual information with their water use numbers. The data is simply accompanied with the fact that the information covers "all consolidated subsidiaries and affiliated companies." For their part, Honda used 33.8 million cubic metres of water to produce their vehicles in 2015, and they discharged 20 million cubic metres in wastewater.
General Motors (GM) has a very thorough set of sustainability policies. GM said that they are focused on further integrating sustainability into [their] business." Part of its sustainability strategy is "minimising the impact of operations and supply chain." Though GM did not publish the amount of water used in 2015, they did report using 4.31 cubic metres to produce their cars.
GM underlines that they wish to "maximise the full potential value of responsible water management for [the] company and communities."
Ford had the most aggressive approach to water stewardship, and aims to be in "a position of industry leadership." The company began to map out its water strategy at the beginning of the century and is moving beyond a simple production focused approach and are "working more holistically outside [their] corporate walls," addressing water concerns in the communities that surround their operations.
Ford highlights that they have achieved a 30% reduction in water use per vehicle between 2009 and 2013. In 2015 however from city, surface, and well-water the company used a total 16.1 million cubic metres of water globally. On the heels of their water management success, Ford has surpassed all their self-imposed goals.
The goal in 2015 was to "reduce water use by a further 2 percent", they exceeded this mark by reducing their use by five percent per vehicle produced. This is reflected in the 3.81 cubic metres of water used to produce each car.
Between the five companies, there were well over 100 million cubic metres of water used in the production of motor vehicles. There are serious water management concerns in this as in any industry. Changing the water footprint of car manufacturers will take industry leaders to proactively approach the issue.
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