Ford Motor Company Cutting Water Consumption

The 2009/2010 report, titled “Blueprint for Sustainability: The Future at Work,” provides updates on the company’s progress in five key areas including climate change, fuel economy, mobility, vehicle safety and human rights.

During 2009 and early 2010, Ford further reduced its global water use, down 16.6 percent year to year, and became one of the first companies to join the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Water Disclosure program to promote conservation and stewardship

In 2009, Ford Motor Company began developing a new water strategy that addresses the impacts of our water use from both an environmental and a social perspective. To help guide and inform our approach, we signed on as a founding responder of the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) Water Disclosure initiative, which launched in late 2009 to help institutional investors better understand the business risks and opportunities associated with water scarcity and related issues. The CDP’s original project focused on corporate disclosures of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change strategies, and we found our participation in that project to be very beneficial in helping us formulate our strategy for GHG reporting. We anticipate similar benefits from CDP Water Disclosure, which will provide a globally harmonized method of water reporting. 

This new strategy, which we are currently formulating, will build on the water use reduction strategy we began 10 years ago. When we initiated our water reduction goals in 2000, many facilities had little ability to track their water usage. Ford engineers thus developed a patented Water Estimation Tool (WET), a software program that helps facilities to predict their water usage. They then paired WET with WILD (Water Ideas to Lessen Demand), a list of practical ideas for reducing water use depending on where and when use is the greatest. Our facilities made good progress for several years, meeting or exceeding the 3 percent year-over-year water-reduction goal that applied to all facilities. To encourage continued progress, Ford environmental engineers are developing “single point lessons” that document practices demonstrated to save water. These lessons are cascaded for mandatory implementation in all facilities and are included in facility business plans. Single point lessons implemented thus far include leak identification, cooling tower optimization, and vehicle water testing.

Water use at each facility is also tracked in the Global Emissions Manager database, our global emissions management and tracking system. Water use is included in GEM in a monthly tracking scorecard reviewed by senior management.

In addition, Ford is using an innovative new machining process, called minimum quantity lubricant (MQL) machining, to reduce water use. In MQL machining, the cutting tool is lubricated with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip of the tool in a finely atomized mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture. The process saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per year. By eliminating the coolant/water mixture, MQL machining eliminates the need to treat and dispose of an oily waste stream. The MQL process is also delivering significant benefits in energy use, waste production, quality, working conditions and costs. We have already implemented the MQL system at a number of transmission plants in the United States, UK and Europe and are planning to use it at our Craiova, Romania, and Cologne, Germany, plants as we launch the production of new engines in these facilities.

Their Cleveland Casting Plant implemented significant water-reduction actions that focus on reducing water usage in the facility’s large hydraulic units and electric induction, iron-holding furnaces, which were identified as major water-using sources in the plant. The project, which began in 2008, reduced water usage by 26.8 percent in 2008 and another 35 percent in 2009. Over the course of these two years, the project has saved more than $1.2 million in city water costs alone. The plant was named the winner of Ford’s 2009 Environmental Leadership Award for its innovative water-saving efforts.

Ford’s Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant is located in the Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico, south of the Arizona border. There, an extended drought that began in 1995, coupled with population growth, created a severe water shortage. At Hermosillo, we have cut water use despite a doubling in the production of vehicles. This unusual feat has been accomplished through the addition of innovative water treatment systems that allow extensive recycling of water within the plant.

As one of the area’s largest water users, the plant responded to the drought conditions by cutting water usage by 43 percent between 1995 and 2000. But when it was selected for expanded vehicle production in 2003, water use was projected to double.

To accommodate the growth in production without increasing water use, the plant installed a biological water treatment system called a Membrane Biological Reactor, now also installed at our plants in Chihuahua, Mexico; Chennai, India; and Chongqing, China. The system uses an ultra-filtration membrane process followed by reverse osmosis to make 55 percent of the plant’s wastewater suitable for high-quality reuse within the plant’s processes. The treated water can also be used for irrigation, bringing to 65 percent the amount of wastewater that can be recycled.

As a result, our water consumption per vehicle unit at the plant has dropped by over 34 percent since 2000.

“Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are essential ingredients for long-term success,” said Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. “Ford’s Blueprint for Sustainability and our commitment to pursuing it have not changed. Our vision is to provide sustainable transportation that is affordable in every sense of the word – socially, environmentally and economically.”

“Ford’s award-winning sustainability reporting has been enhanced through the years by the its direct and candid dialogue with shareholders, community organizations and other key stakeholders regarding a wide range of sustainability issues, including global climate change, human rights and good governance practices,” said Anne Kelly, Co-Director, Policy Program & Director for Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy [BICEP] at Ceres, who led the stakeholder team that advised Ford on their 2009/10 Sustainability Report.

Source: Ford Motor Company

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