Reducing water consumption, cutting the volume of waste water, treating contaminated water and protecting habitats – these are the core aspects of sustainable water management at Volkswagen that are laid down in the Group’s environmental principles. We have set ourselves the goal of reducing water consumption per vehicle in all plants by 25% by 2018 compared with 2010. The following current examples of efficient water usage show which technologies can be used to reach this goal.
In Foshan, China, we are currently putting into operation a manufacturing process that is virtually free of waste water. At that site, waste water is collected in a biological sewage treatment plant with membrane bioreactors and treated so that it can be reused. This technology is 98% effective in relation to biologically degradable water contamination. The plant is the first of its kind in the Chinese automotive sector and the largest in the Volkswagen Group.
In the Taubaté plant in Brazil, water usage has been cut by 20% thanks to a painting process without fillers and an innovative overspray removal method.
Water consumption at the Puebla location in Mexico dropped from 5.1 m3 per vehicle in 1999 to around 3.0 m3 currently. This success is based on improved treatment of waste water and the use of intelligent facilities that collect rainwater and make it usable.
So far, we have made good progress in 2012 in the reforestation project at the Popocatépetl volcano in Mexico. The newly planted trees and other measures ensure that the ground there can store more rainwater. This adds around 2.6 million m3 to the groundwater a year – significantly more than the Volkswagen plant in Puebla requires.
Volkswagen informs the public and its stakeholders in detail on how the Company uses water. It has participated in the Water Disclosure Project (WDP) since 2011, making its information available to the public. A key aspect of this is the “water footprint”, which we calculated for selected models based on the comprehensive data from our environmental impact studies. This basis allows us to identify which processes consume the most water in the entire product lifecycle. In calculating these water footprints, we capture the water consumption not only at our production locations, but also in all phases of the value chain.
In cases where extracting water is unavoidable, Volkswagen looks for opportunities – wherever possible – to offset it correspondingly: for the plant currently under construction in Ningbo in southern China, for example, we are driving forward the designation of tidal flats on the Yellow Sea as protected areas to compensate.