As the climate crisis intensifies, the impacts on our shared freshwater resources are far-reaching. Businesses such as Dow depend on having abundant fresh water to ensure the continued safe operation of our manufacturing facilities worldwide. Safe, accessible water is also essential to the health of the communities in which we operate, critical to ecosystems and integral to economic growth.
We have both the responsibility and opportunity to collaborate with other sectors of society on solutions, combining our resources and efforts to ensure there are sustainable and resilient freshwater resources for all. Today, 2.2 billion people around the world are living in water-stressed areas, and the same will be true of more than half the world’s population by 2050 if no action is taken.
In 2019, Dow was one of seven co-founding companies that initiated a business-led initiative of the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate mobilizing businesses to advance water stewardship.
In 2020, Dow, along with other members of the CEO Water Mandate, launched the Water Resilience Coalition (WRC). The CEO-led initiative aims to bring together global corporate leaders to reduce water stress by 2050. Members of the initiative are committed to collaborating to ensure freshwater basins are able to consistently supply the water needed for communities, businesses and the natural environment.
WRC members commit to continuous progress against six elements of stewardship – direct operations, supply chain and watershed management, collective action, public policy, community engagement and transparency. This pledge helps:
Dow’s participation in the WRC also supports our 2025 Sustainability Goals. In addition to these actions, we are using our materials science to innovate products and processes that improve sustainable water management.
Dow, along with other members of the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, launched the Water Resilience Coalition, a CEO-led initiative to reduce water stress by 2050.
|Dow 2025 Goal||Alignment with Water Strategy|
|Leading the Blueprint||Blueprint for Sustainable Watershed Management|
|Advancing a Circular Economy||Water recycling projects at Dow manufacturing sites|
|Valuing Nature||Projects that deliver value for Dow and for ecosystems|
|World-Leading Operations Performance||Goal to reduce freshwater intake intensity by 20% at key water-stressed sites|
In 2020, we continued to prioritize water conservation and reuse investments based on site-specific water risks – keeping our focus on reducing freshwater intake at key water-stressed sites by 20%. The following outlines innovative areas where Dow is driving collaborative action and pursuing technological advancement.
At our Terneuzen site in the Netherlands, progress continues in achieving 100% water circularity by 2024. This would eliminate withdrawals of fresh river water from the Biesbosch area near the confluence of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, which is also the location of a Ramsar wetland (#197). As part of this long-term plan, Dow is piloting a project initiated in partnership with Evides and the regional water board, owners of Terneuzen’s wastewater treatment facility (WWTF), to process various sources of water. These sources include Dow’s private wastewater treatment plant and Terneuzen’s municipal WWTF. The pilot is running through August 2021. Full-scale implementation is planned for the end of 2024.
In June 2020, Dow, Evides, U Gent and HZ University of Applied Sciences (Vlissingen, Netherlands) launched a new EU Horizon 2020 project entitled AquaSPICE. This project involves 29 partners throughout Europe who aim to materialize circular water use in European process industries, foster awareness in resource efficiency and deliver solutions for industrial applications. Two of Dow’s sites will be participating: Dow Terneuzen and Böhlen (Germany). Böhlen and Terneuzen are striving to reduce their freshwater intake intensity by:
Dyeing cotton textiles is a resource-intensive process that contributes to water pollution and water scarcity. ECOFAST™ Pure Sustainable Textile Treatment helps make a bold difference. This award-winning technology can reduce water use by up to 50% and chemical use by up to 90% in the dyeing process. These sustainability benefits don’t come at the sacrifice of color or quality either. ECOFAST™ Pure enables brands to achieve the same or better color performance that consumers know and love.
Dow is working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and other public and private organizations to identify cost-effective and systemic solutions to climate risk in and around coastal areas. To tackle physical climate risks associated with water reliability, Dow and TNC will be working with, in and around our most water-stressed sites – starting with the U.S. Gulf Coast – to identify and implement watershed-level projects aimed at improving both water quality and water quantity in the region.
In March 2021, Ralph Lauren announced Color on Demand, a multiphased platform with the ambition to deliver the world’s first scalable, zero-wastewater cotton dyeing system. The initial phase of Color on Demand includes Ralph Lauren working side-by-side with Dow to optimize ECOFAST™ Pure for more sustainable cotton dyeing. Dow’s breakthrough product enables significant water savings and dramatically reduces the amount of chemicals, dye, time and energy needed to color cotton. Ralph Lauren is the first apparel brand owner to implement ECOFAST™ Pure, as featured in select cotton apparel for their 2020 Team USA Collection. To make adoption of this technology easier for the industry, the companies plan to release a detailed manual with steps for industry implementation.
Dow strives to reduce freshwater withdrawal at all sites. Although we have focused our efforts on our six key water-stressed sites, certain sites also have experienced seasonal water-scarcity issues, driving the need for improvements.
We continue to advance water stewardship within our own operations to conserve fresh water. Here are two examples:
Our Coating Materials site near Chennai, India, has a history of water stress due to drought, which has resulted in an unreliable and poor water quality supply. Since 2017, Dow has been working on reducing its water consumption, achieving a 30% reduction. One key project involved the collection of rainwater. The rainwater was stored via recharge bore caverns, increasing the water table and improving water quality.
In Map Ta Phut, Thailand, a new water recycling technology was installed. The cascading scheme reuses the blowdown of a cooling tower and reject stream from the reverse osmosis unit as makeup water for a second cooling tower. This project is recycling 1,100 metric tons/day, corresponding to a 5% reduction in overall site water consumption while generating an NPV of $0.85 million.
Only a small proportion of water intake ends up in products (e.g., consumption). The total volume of water intake globally has been relatively consistent as a result of the combined impact of process efficiencies, business portfolio changes and growth. We strive to further reduce overall intake by exploring sustainable water circularity options looking at both internal and external sources. Rainwater is recovered in multiple locations and reused for firewater and other purposes, but rainwater volume compared to other intakes is relatively small.
In 2020, our overall water intake increased, due to an increase in seawater intake for cooling purposes.
Freshwater intake intensity is tracked for Dow’s six key water-stressed sites. In 2020, the freshwater intake intensity at these sites was 10.63, nearly equal to the 2015 baseline.
In an effort to improve the accuracy of our water accounting, all of our key water-stressed sites will be reporting freshwater intake on a monthly basis while also aligning with water GRI categories and definitions of the Water and Effluents 2018 GRI 303, as reflected in the table below. This process uncovered a key water-stressed site reporting third-party recycle water as virgin fresh water and historical data was adjusted accordingly. All sites will be migrated to the new standard for reporting in January 2022.
Roughly 80% of Dow’s freshwater intake at our six key water-stressed sites is at our largest manufacturing site in Freeport, Texas. Additional efforts were completed in 2020 to reduce freshwater intake at that site, including:
85% of source water is returned to the watershed at equal or better quality than at withdrawal, according to water-use assessments at Dow sites with the highest freshwater intake. (GRI 303-4)
Dow appropriately treats and monitors the quality of water discharged back to the environment. The total volume of treated wastewater discharged in 2020 was 119 million metric tons. The majority of the water is discharged as surface water, with a small portion returned to oceans. At a few sites, Dow site wastewater goes to a third party for treatment before discharge (typically to surface water).
Wastewater intensity is the ratio of pounds of wastewater per pound of production. Over many years, our wastewater intensity has been relatively consistent at approximately three pounds of wastewater discharged per pound of product. The majority of our total water intake is returned to the environment, as it is used for cooling purposes in energy generation and chemical manufacturing. The difference between water intake and water discharge is mainly due to evaporative losses associated with evaporative cooling practiced in locations to minimize water intake.
Wastewater quality is strictly governed by local regulations, and parameters are set specifically for each watershed. Dow’s operations abide by these local regulations. Therefore, wastewater discharge quality is not reported consistently across all Dow sites. Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) are reported for the sites listed here, which account for more than 85% of Dow’s wastewater discharge.
Our seven major wastewater discharge sites were identified to establish the baseline for the 2015 Sustainability Goals and account for more than 80% of our total discharge. The six key water-stressed sites were added to the wastewater discharge quality reporting at the launch of the 2025 Sustainability Goal to reduce freshwater intake intensity at these sites by 20%. The TSS discharge concentration across the sites has been relatively consistent. (2016 TSS was 0.005%, and the BOD concentration was 0.004%.)
|Sites Included in Wastewater Discharge Quality Reporting|
|Largest Wastewater Discharge Quantities||Key Water-Stressed Sites|
|Aratu, Brazil||Bahía Blanca, Argentina|
|Deer Park, TX||Böhlen, Germany|
|Freeport, TX||Freeport, TX|
|Midland, MI||Seadrift, TX|
|Plaquemine, LA||Tarragona, Spain|
|Stade, Germany||Terneuzen, the Netherlands|
|Texas City, TX|
Dow is supporting efforts in water-stress basins through the Global Water Challenge, a coalition of leading organizations committed to achieving universal access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and women’s empowerment.