Sustainability 2011/12


Water Impacts, Risks and Opportunities

Water scarcity can have a sizeable impact on our manufacturing operations. Although we do not need as much water as some other industries, we use water in many key manufacturing phases in our plants. We cannot be certain that we will always have access to the water we need. Already, some of our facilities are located in regions where water supplies are under stress. And global climate change has the potential to further impact the availability and quality of water.

The cost of using water is expected to continue to increase in the coming decades. For a manufacturing company like ours, this would mean higher operating costs. Already, in some locations, rate increases from 2000 to 2011 outpaced water reductions, and our costs will continue to rise if we don’t make further improvements.

Increasing water scarcity means industrial needs can be at odds with community and environmental needs. Industrial facilities in water-stressed areas will have reduced access to water and/or may endure rising water costs. Suppliers within water-stressed areas will also be affected. Working on solutions helps us to secure a “license to operate” in diverse global locations and can enhance our reputation in local communities.

Another possible risk for Ford is the water intensity of alternative fuels, such as biofuels and electricity, which may require greater amounts of water to produce than gasoline and diesel fuel. We are assessing the consequences for water quality and availability that may result from the increased production of electrified vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles.

Tracking and reporting our water usage helps us to manage water-related risks and, as a result, allows us to play a significant role in developing and implementing solutions to the water challenge going forward. We see opportunities for:

  • Reduced manufacturing costs through process improvements and new technologies that better track our water usage and enable us to target improvements
  • Improved water efficiency

Water services are the most capital-intensive of all utilities, requiring more infrastructure for the delivery of water than the delivery of electricity, for example. According to the World Bank, a $400 billion to $600 billion investment will be needed in global water infrastructure in the next two decades. Meanwhile, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that between $111 billion and $180 billion will be needed per year to meet Millennium Development Goals for sanitation by 2015.1

In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the country will need to invest $202.5 billion over the next 20 years in wastewater facilities, and an additional $122 billion to ensure safe drinking water supplies.

  1. In 2000, the United Nations set eight goals for development, called the Millennium Development Goals, to improve the global human condition by 2015.