Water

Fresh water is a precious resource and critical raw material in our operations, particularly for ore processing, cooling, casting, rolling, dust suppression and potable uses.

Our 2019 net water consumption was 812.9 million cubic meters, which was a 0.1 percent decrease compared to 2018. Our locations in water-stressed areas had a net consumption of 46.5 million cubic meters. This was a 14.1 percent increase compared to the prior year.

The increase in water consumption at our sites in water-stressed areas was due to a variety of factors that included:

  • Rainfall that was well above average at our Alumar location in Brazil, which meant the location captured more rain for use in its processes. The location also used extra water for construction dust suppression and had more open residue areas due to a project delay, which resulted in increased water inputs due to the larger open area.
  • A relatively dry year in Western Australia, which increased both evaporation from ponds and sprinkler use for dust suppression at the refineries and mines.

Our strategic long-term goal is to define and implement a program focused on enhancing water-use efficiency at locations in Alcoa-defined water-scarce areas by 2020 and define specific water-use reduction targets for 2025 and 2030.

Alcoa Foundation has partnered with the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council to improve stewardship of our waterways. The Serpentine River, one of the three rivers that flows into the internationally recognized Peel-Yalgorup Ramsar Site, is in poor condition. A three-year funding commitment from the foundation through our Connecting Corridors and Communities: Restoring the Serpentine River project has enabled us to understand the ecology of the river, to identify and prioritize actions to improve its health and to make a start on its restoration. This commitment also has helped us to better connect with our community, including the local Noongar people as Traditional Owners of the land and water, to recognize the benefits that the river provides to us and to commit to action to take better care of it.”

Dr. Steve Fisher
Program Manager, Science and Waterways
Peel-Harvey Catchment Council

To achieve that goal, we updated our water and wastewater management standard in 2019 to be aligned with ICMM’s water stewardship framework and the Water Accounting Framework. We also established a new target—reduce the intensity of our total water use from water-scarce locations by 5 percent by 2025 and 10 percent by 2030 from a 2015 baseline. A 2018 assessment of our water-related risks using the World Resource Institute’s Aqueduct tools informed both the standard and goal.

A major requirement of our new standard is the development and maintenance of a water management plan at each operating location that considers the following:

  • Current and alternative water sources;
  • Security of water supplies;
  • Water reduction, substitution, reuse and recycling programs; and
  • Risks of contamination of water resources and mitigating actions.

The standard also requires a documented water balance for each location that is reviewed and updated at least every five years; a risk-based monitoring program; access to safe, high-quality potable water; and wastewater treatment facilities that are operated and maintained in accordance with permit conditions and standard industry practices.

2019 Water Balance—All Locations
Million cubic meters

► Hide the table▼ Show the table

2019 Water Balance—All Locations
Million cubic meters

Category 1 water is of a high quality and suitable for most purposes with little or no treatment. Category 2 water is of a medium quality and suitable for some purposes, such as irrigation. Category 3 water is of a low quality and suitable for limited purposes without significant treatment. Categories 1 and 2 are equivalent to the ICMM High Quality definition, and Category 3 is equivalent to the ICMM Low Quality definition. Groundwater includes produced water, which is water entrained in ore. Consumption consists of evaporation and entrainment. The 2019 change in storage volume was -3.9 million cubic meters, and 164 million cubic meters were recycled/reused in the process. The sum of categories may vary from the totals due to rounding.
Water Withdrawn Water Discharged
Category 1 Category 2 Category 3 Total Category 1 Category 2 Category 3 Total
Surface Water 35.4 655.5 19.6 710.6 5.3 649.1 0.8 655.2
Groundwater 1.9 17.3 3.1 22.4 0.0 6.9 2.6 9.5
Seawater 0.0 0.0 65.1 65.1 0.0 0.9 89.6 90.5
Third-party Water 3.5 6.5 0.9 10.9 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.3
Consumption - - - - 5.6 13.8 38.0 57.4
Total 40.8 697.4 88.8 809.0 11.0 670.8 131.1 812.9

Case Studies

    Nature Does the Work

    Our Intalco Works aluminum smelter let nature help decrease the site’s stormwater runoff and improve the quality of the water in the process.


    Read more >

    Restoring Waterways, Revitalizing Communities

    Three environmental organizations + Alcoa Foundation funding = The restoration of three rivers + one estuary. This winning equation is positively impacting the economic, environmental and social health of numerous communities across the Peel-Harvey Catchment in Western Australia.


    Read more >