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Case Study: Saving Water in Cuautitlán, Mexico

Our manufacturing facility in Cuautitlán, Mexico, is located in a region of water scarcity. Although there is adequate annual rainfall, the arid region does not have sufficient infrastructure to recover the water, and the underground water table is dropping by an average of three to four meters each year. The government has been forced to pump in water from other states to ensure there is enough for the area residents.

When we first built the Cuautitlán Stamping and Assembly Plant in 1964, it was one of few large industrial manufacturers in the area. Today, Ford is one of many international corporations doing business here. Our neighbors include several global beverage producers and chemical companies that typically require far greater amounts of water than auto manufacturers.

In the 1990s, the regional Cuautitlán government recognized that demand for water was outstripping supply. Officials began placing limits on water withdrawals and requiring stricter permitting processes. We began paying much closer attention to our water use at the facility.

Over the years, facility managers have come up with some creative solutions to their natural environmental challenges, reducing water use per vehicle produced at this facility by almost 58 percent between 2000 and 2013.

One thing we did recently to conserve water was install dedicated piping for potable water to ensure that we did not use potable water for anything other than human consumption. All other water used at the plants gets recycled. The dedicated piping has improved the quality of water for drinking and for use in food preparation at our plant cafeteria.

Several times the plant has been recognized by Ford’s Environmental Quality Office for its innovations. In 2013, for example, the plant won Ford’s Latin America Environmental Leadership Award for an initiative using ecological concrete. The facility replaced the asphalt and parking lots within the plant with ecological concrete, which allows rain to reenter the ground. This recharges the aquifer beneath the plant and helps prevent water scarcity in the city. The plant renovated an area of more than 9,700 square meters with ecological concrete, allowing the absorption of as much as 7.5 million liters of water per year.

Not only was the project beneficial for the community, it was also beneficial for Ford’s own bottom line. Ecological concrete is less expensive than traditional concrete and is maintenance-free. As a result, this has saved the plant approximately $40,000 a year in maintenance costs.

The Cuautitlán plant employs a number of other technologies, systems and tools to reduce water usage, including the following:

  • 3-Wet paint technology, which enables consolidation of painting to eliminate one booth water wash section. The technology also provides significant energy savings.
  • We are using a new chemical process in pre-treating the vehicles in preparation for painting, which improves the quality of the vehicles while saving water and energy at the same time. By replacing phosphates with a process that uses zirconium oxide, we are saving approximately 1,000 cubic meters of water per month.
  • We use recycled water to irrigate the landscaping around our plant. This includes a grass soccer field that is provided for the use of our employees.

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