How Toyota, Novelis and Nestle Reduce Water Use Across Operations

Toyota Water Risk North America

by | Dec 27, 2016

Toyota Water Risk North AmericaToyota’s North American operations reduced water usage by 99.8 million gallons over the past year.

The automaker details how it accomplished this in its 2016 North American Environmental Report.

Toyota withdrew 1.62 billion gallons of water — a 5.8 percent decrease from the previous year — at its more than 85 North American facilities during fiscal year 2016.

The company’s water target was to reduce withdrawals by 6 percent per vehicle produced by 2016, from a 2010 baseline. Toyota met this target in 2015; by the end of fiscal year 2016 it had achieved a 14 percent reduction.

At its Mississippi assembly plant, for example, the company put an unused tank into service to recycle water back to the cooling tower, changed the pretreatment process to use less water rinsing vehicles before they are painted, and installed a reverse osmosis concentrate recovery system that filters and purifies water so that it can be used instead of discharged. These three projects save more than 10.5 million gallons per year.

Additionally, Toyota’s assembly plant in Kentucky began using deionized water from the drains that catch condensate from humidifiers to maintain water levels in the paint reclamation system. Capturing and reusing this water reduced the amount of water needed from the city and saved 2 million gallons in fiscal year 2016, compared to 2015.

Toyota Motor North America regional environmental director Kevin Butt told Environmental Leader the company spent about $80,000 on the water initiatives outlined in its environmental report, as well as water recycling efforts at its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas. The company expects to see a return on investment in six or seven years.

While the water reduction did not save Toyota money in fiscal year 2016, “we will certainly see those reductions in the future,” Butt said.

Toyota also uses the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct tool (pictured) to analyze and map its global water risk. The Aqueduct tool, which creates a global map of a company’s water risk related to physical risk quantity, physical risk quality, and regulatory and reputational risk.

Meanwhile, in a different industry, Novelis reduced its water intensity 22 percent reduction from the baseline averages of fiscal years 2007-2009, according to the aluminum rolling and recycling company’s 2016 sustainability report.

In addition to reducing its water and other natural resource use, Novelis increased the use of recycled aluminum and minimizing the use of natural resources.

Recycling aluminum produces 95 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 95 percent less energy than primary aluminum production, which enables Novelis to achieve lower GHG emissions despite increasing global production capacity.

At the end of fiscal 2016, Novelis achieved an average of 53 percent recycled aluminum inputs, up 23 percentage points from the 2007-2009 baseline.

Ashley Gravlee, Novelis’ corporate social responsibility manager, told Environmental Leader that the company took a variety of steps to optimize its water use across its facilities. The Oswego, New York facility improved its water reuse technology, allowing the plant to save about 50,000 cubic meters of water per year.

The company also reduced water intensity by one-third at its plant in Terre Haute, Indiana, by improving cooling tower water flow and reducing leaks. In fiscal year 2015, this plant installed a variable frequency drive to better control the water flow rates going to our cold mill operations. This also continued to reduce water usage in FY16.

“Meanwhile, at our plant in Pindamonhangaba, Brazil — where the country’s extended drought highlights the need to conserve water — reducing water use and implementing a comprehensive water management strategy continues to be a major focus,” Gavlee said. “Collectively, these and other efforts across Novelis put us within striking distance of achieving our goal to reduce our water intensity by 25 percent by 2020.”

Gravlee would not disclose how much Novelis spent on technologies and other initiatives to reduce water use or how soon the company expects to see a return on investment from these efforts.

In the food and beverage industry, Nestlé says its US factories are withdrawing 10 percent less water per ton of product than they did five years ago.

The company is also moving forward with its plan to turn its Modesto, California, factory into a “zero-water” plant, which reuses water cow’s milk (this is usually about 88 percent water), heats it, and then condenses, treats and purifies the steam for reuse. Nestlé expects this project to save nearly 63 million gallons of water annually.

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