Conserving a Valuable Resource
Our facilities throughout the world, particularly our water-intensive refining and molten-metal processing, rely on a sustainable supply of water. We are committed to conserving this valuable resource through strategic water management and innovative technology.
Our goal is a 25% reduction in average freshwater-use intensity by 2020 and 30% by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. In 2014, our intensity was 21% lower than the baseline but slightly higher than 2013 despite a 3% decline in total freshwater use during the year. Drought conditions in Jamaica and higher production and cooling needs at our Mosjøen location in Norway were the primary factors behind the intensity increase.
Cubic meters of water per metric ton of production
|Goal: 25% reduction||Progress: As of Dec. 2014 |
Total Freshwater Use
Millions of cubic meters
Total Freshwater Use by Region
Millions of cubic meters
Strategic Water Management
Our first step in using water efficiently and effectively is ensuring we have qualified people to manage this resource and state-of-the-art equipment and processes that minimize both water use and wastewater discharge. We then continuously evaluate our water use to identify opportunities to reduce consumption and increase reuse.
A recent example is our Runcorn, United Kingdom, location, where approximately 70% of the freshwater entering the facility was used in the manufacturing process. In 2014, the plant’s employees identified an opportunity to reuse treated water from its onsite effluent plant. This water historically was discharged into a canal at the rear of the facility per regulatory agreements.
The plant’s maintenance team designed and built an in-house pumping station and water network that will deliver 100% of the treated water to three areas in the plant that use the most process water once fully implemented in 2015. The solution, which cost approximately US$20,000, will eliminate 35,500 cubic meters (9.4 million gallons) of freshwater consumption and save US$97,000 annually in water costs.
In some regions of the world where we operate, water is limited due to droughts and other factors. These water-sensitive regions can vary each year, which requires us to adapt our water approach accordingly. In 2014, for example, we faced drought conditions in Texas and Western Australia. The latter region is prone to droughts, and we have worked to identify secondary sources of water and reduce the evaporation of stored water at our refineries.
Periodically, we conduct a global water-risk survey that includes an assessment of local and regional water stress. These location assessments are cross-referenced with global assessments from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institute to verify potential areas of stress. We conducted our last survey in 2012.
In 2014, we conducted an analysis of climate risk and changing weather patterns. As a result of that analysis, we were able to identify, among other things, how changing weather patterns could impact the water profile of our operations.
We also collaborate with other businesses and stakeholders to fully understand all water-related opportunities and risks. For example, we are an active participant in WBCSD’s efforts on sharing best practices and technology and charting a worldwide sustainable water course. At the location level, we engage with our stakeholders to ensure we are appropriately addressing all potential water-conflict situations.
Whenever we upgrade an existing facility, we assess the potential for water reduction and reuse. For new plants, we determine the long-term availability of water resources and what restrictions exist or will be imposed on wastewater discharges.
We develop, evaluate, and deploy innovative technologies and approaches to both reduce the water used in our operations and increase recycling opportunities.
A good example of a technology with multiple benefits is residue filtration, which will come online at our Kwinana Refinery in Western Australia in 2016. With this technology, bauxite residue generated from the alumina refining process is forced through very large filters that squeeze out the water. Once operational, the system is expected to enable the recycling of 1.2 gigaliters (317 million gallons) of water annually and significantly reduce the active residue storage space.
We continue to expand the use of the Alcoa-developed Natural Engineered Wastewater Treatment (NEWTTM) system to treat sanitary and process wastewater, which is then reused in our manufacturing processes. In 2014, we approved the installation of a NEWT system at our facility in Wichita Falls, Texas, USA, a region that has been experiencing severe drought. Once operational in 2015, the system will treat and recycle 36,000 cubic meters (9.5 million gallons) of wastewater annually.
NEWT systems are already operational at the Alcoa Technical Center in the United States and the Ma’aden-Alcoa joint venture in Saudi Arabia. We also have partnered with Bauer Resources GmbH to commercialize the technology and offer it to customers worldwide.
Diverse Programs Creating Tomorrow’s Environmental Stewards
Alcoa Plants Tap Non-Traditional Sources to Reduce Freshwater Use
Alcoa-designed Engineered Wetlands System Eliminates Wastewater Discharge, Reduces Freshwater Needs by 25% in Saudi Arabia