One in three people worldwide lack enough water to meet daily needs, according to the World Health Organization. The problem is getting worse as populations grow.
Vital to our operations and those of our suppliers, water use must be well managed to avoid harming the environment and communities. We are committed to minimizing our impacts on water quality and availability in the areas near our operations. Our water strategy takes into account:
The total quantity of water used
The water source, e.g., rainfall or aquifer
Local levels of water stress
Our manufacturing processes use a considerable amount of water. In 2013, our total water withdrawal was 30.2 million m3. Of this, 15.8 million m3 was directly returned to the environment by Mars at the same or higher quality than when it was extracted. The remaining water use was either returned to municipal treatment systems, incorporated in our finished products or evaporated.
By 2015, our goal is to reduce our total water usage by 25 percent from 2007 levels. We are focused on consuming water more efficiently in our production processes and general use.
We systematically track the water source of every site – whether it comes from the municipal supply, ground water, surface water or captured rainwater. When calculating our performance against our short-term water use reduction goal, we focus on freshwater withdrawals from municipal supplies and ground water.
We have identified water-stressed regions (and river basins) where we have operations. Our initial research shows that 35% of our production plants are in areas with high water stress.1 Of these, the three sites with the highest water use are in Australia, China and the U.K.2 From 2015, we will introduce 2020 water intensity targets for all sites with more challenging targets for sites with high local water stress
We fully support the mission of the Water Footprint Network, and use the intensity values in their water footprint assessment tool to determine the virtual water content of our products.
Reducing water use in our operations
Wrigley’s factory in Plymouth, U.K. captures about 2,000 m3 of rainwater each year, enough to supply a third of the water needed for its cooling towers. This saves money and reduces energy use associated with air-conditioning. In Asquith, Australia, Wrigley implemented a similar project – capturing rainwater for all onsite hard surface washing, use in restroom amenities and to supply the cooling towers. The result is a 35 percent reduction in water consumption from the grid, which saves 3,600 m3 annually.
Mars Drinks’ National Office in Basingstoke, U.K. has installed a rainwater harvesting system, reducing water consumption from the grid by over 40 percent. The project has been such a success we are evaluating the feasibility of installing similar rainwater harvesting systems at our West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S. factory.
Mars Petcare, Birstall, U.K. installed a 240 m3 rainwater collection tank to supply water to its bio-filtration process. Bio-filtration is used to control odor from ovens. Air from the ovens passes through a thick layer of pine chips, and enzymes within the chips remove bacteria and other waste particles. Based on the site’s average rainfall, the project is estimated to reduce the water needed for bio-filtration by up to 60 percent, saving almost 5,000 m3 per year.
Mars Chocolate, Chicago, Illinois, U.S. installed a new cooling tower and belt-washing system, which, coupled with behavior changes, resulted in an 11 percent (37,000 m3) annual reduction in water use. In total, the site has reduced its water consumption by 31 percent (127,000 m3) since 2007, while production volumes have increased by 12 percent.
Reducing water use in our supply chain
We work with Tier 1 suppliers to address their exposure to water-related risks. Water impact in the supply chain is greatest at the agricultural production stage. We have carried out an initial assessment to identify raw materials from regions subject to water related risk, including rice, tea, tomatoes and mint.
We collaborate with suppliers on a number of projects to address access to, and use of, water within the supply chain, for example by improving the water efficiency of rice farming in the Mississippi Delta. We worked directly with farmers to use alternate wetting and drying (AWD), an irrigation technique that reduces water use and GHG emissions with little or no impact on yields. We are looking to test our findings in other regions, including Pakistan, where we contract with more than 300 rice farmers on improved farming techniques.
Mars financed AWD research and worked directly with farmers and universities in the Mississippi Delta, the results of which will be used to inform the project in Pakistan. We are collaborating with peers on SAI Platform’s Sustainable Rice Project Group and the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), chaired by UNEP. SRP will identify and develop a pragmatic, globally applicable Sustainable Rice Practices Standard that will include reduced water use. We will test the resulting standard in our supply chains.
Our long-term objective is to cause zero degradation of water quality. We typically treat our wastewater either to direct discharge standards or so it is clean enough to discharge into municipal wastewater systems, where it receives further treatment.
Improving the quality of our wastewater is as important as reducing the volume discharged, because reducing volumes can actually increase the concentration of waste within it. We test wastewater quality periodically but need better systems to monitor the volume we release. Many water utilities only measure the amount of water used, not wastewater discharged, so our data on wastewater released is incomplete. We are installing meters to capture our own data directly.
Our Petcare facility in Mogi Mirim, Brazil, is the first Mars operation to develop a water self-sufficiency program. This program involves a combination of conservation, reuse, rainwater capture and an onsite well. These measures save some US$626,000 per year.
The main savings come from reductions in water use, treatment, and the transport and disposal of solid waste generated during treatment.
Wrigley factories across Asia manage their own wastewater treatment. The treated water is reused for on-site amenities and lessens the burden on municipal treatment systems.
We are also increasing the number of sites (currently more than 10) with large scale rainwater harvesting systems.
1 Using the Baseline Water Stress measure from WRI’s Aqueduct tool, we consider high stress to be any area where withdrawals are more than 40% of available flow. This is a broader definition than many other water stress metrics.
2 Water use means fresh water withdrawn minus water discharged and returned to its source at similar or higher quality than it has been withdrawn.