Water Use

A decade ago, Ford launched a water-reduction initiative and set a target of 3 percent year-over-year reductions in water use. We have exceeded this goal. From 2000 to 2010, Ford’s global manufacturing operations reduced water consumption by 62 percent, or 10.5 billion gallons. While our global water use increased slightly – by 1 percent – from 2009 to 2010, our water use per vehicle decreased from 5.2 cubic meters in 2009 to 4.8 cubic meters in 2010, which reflects the fact that we are using water more efficiently during production.

At the end of 2010, we revised and updated our Ford Motor Company Water Strategy, which looks at our water use from both an environmental and a social perspective. To better understand our water impacts, we have undertaken an assessment of our water footprint throughout the lifecycle of our vehicles. For more information about our water strategy and approach to water use, please see our new Water section.

The new strategy builds on the water-use reduction strategy we began 10 years ago. When we initiated our water-reduction goals in 2000, many facilities had little ability to track their water usage. Ford engineers thus developed a patented Water Estimation Tool (WET), a software program that helps facilities to predict their water usage. They then paired WET with WILD (Water Ideas to Lessen Demand), a list of practical ideas for reducing water use depending on where and when use is the greatest. Our facilities made good progress for several years, meeting or exceeding the 3 percent year-over-year water-reduction goal that applied to all facilities. To encourage continued progress, Ford environmental engineers are developing “single point lessons” that document practices demonstrated to save water. These lessons are cascaded for mandatory implementation in all facilities and are included in facility business plans. Single point lessons implemented thus far include leak identification, cooling tower optimization and vehicle water testing.

Water use at each facility is also tracked in the Global Emissions Manager (GEM) database, our global emissions management and tracking system. Water use is included in GEM in a monthly tracking scorecard reviewed by senior management. The water use tracking and reporting provided by GEM has been a key factor in our ability to understand and reduce our water use.

In addition, we are using an innovative new machining process, called minimum quantity lubricant (MQL) machining, to reduce water use. In MQL machining, the cutting tool is lubricated with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip of the tool in a finely atomized mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture. The process saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and oil per year. By eliminating the coolant/water mixture, MQL machining eliminates the need to treat and dispose of an oily waste stream. The MQL process is also delivering significant benefits in energy use, waste production, quality, working conditions and costs. We have already implemented the MQL system at a number of transmission and engine plants in the U.S., UK and Europe and are currently investigating possible applications in our Asia Pacific plants.

Managers at all of our plants continually strive to use water more efficiently. In 2011, Ford’s Valencia (Spain) Plant received a “Premio ECO-Excelencia 2011” recognition from the Ministry of Environment, in recognition of the plant’s continued efforts in environmental preservation and particularly for their actions to reduce water use and improve wastewater treatment. This award recognized the plant for developing an alternative wastewater treatment system that reduces the use of chemicals and the development of hazardous waste resulting from the treatment process.

In Mexico in 2010, our Chihuahua Engine Plant (CHEP) won the Environmental Leadership for Competitiveness Award from the Mexican federal environmental agency. This recognition rewards companies for implementing actions to improve environmental performance. Overall, the plant is saving 32,416 cubic meters of water per year due to their environmental leadership projects. Examples include the following:

  • The plant is now using reverse-osmosis-treated gray water from the city water system instead of fresh drinking water in the cooling towers of compressor machines and in all other manufacturing processes. This system saves more than 3,500 cubic meters of water per year and more than 290,000 pesos, or almost $25,000 per year.
  • They are also using reverse-osmosis-treated water for washing equipment and floors in the facility instead of using drinking water. This project is estimated to save 28 cubic meters of fresh water per year and approximately 475,000 pesos, or over $40,000 per year.
  • The plant is saving an additional 112 cubic meters of water and over 140,000 pesos, or approximately $12,000 per year by switching to a new floor cleaning system.

These efforts build on CHEP’s continuing efforts to reduce water use. Overall, the plant’s use of city gray water instead of drinking water has reduced consumption of drinking water at the plant by 60 percent since 2005. The plant also treats and recycles its own gray water from sinks, dining rooms and showers for use irrigating the facility grounds. As a result of these efforts, city-provided drinking water supplies are now only used for human consumption at CHEP. See the Water Reductions at the Chihuahua Engine Plant case study for more information.