Water Waste Management: Using Storm Water for Sustainable Development

Aug 3, 2016

Water Scarcity

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could live in regions without enough water. In the U.S. alone, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that 40 cities expect water shortages in the next decade. Water scarcity includes both quantity and quality—access to enough clean water for drinking and sanitation. As people increasingly move into cities, depletion of finite regional water supplies is occurring faster than urban infrastructure can grow to match it. In some areas, like California’s Central Valley, the ground is sinking several inches, even feet in some spaces. This space is created as cities and irrigation systems pump water out of underground aquifers more quickly than they are replenished.

Vibrant, thriving economies and healthy ecosystems depend on plentiful—and clean—water. Increasingly, water scarcity affects mostly poor and underprivileged communities, especially those in developing countries. In 2015, the United Nations responded with Sustainable Development Goal #6 to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The eight targets contained in the goal prioritize water-related issues affecting everyone, from safe drinking water to better water waste management across all sectors.

The Corporate Response

CDP’s 2015 Global Water Report identifies utilities, materials and industrials as some of the sectors most at risk of water stress in the next three years. Industrials and utilities demand about 20 percent of the world’s available water. Most players in these spaces are already experiencing the challenges of an ever-scarce water supply.

For many companies, water scarcity could be a threat to continued growth and the catalyst for new legal and regulatory challenges. In addition to presenting potential business risks, this GreenBiz article reinforces the high cost of water; companies pay for water both as it enters and as it leaves, when companies pay for water waste management through discharge fees and treatment costs. Furthermore, nearly 75 percent of responders to the CDP water report saw near-term potential opportunities through water stewardship. Water waste management strategies will play a critical role in effectively managing a limited water supply.

Doing our Part

As a responsible corporate citizen, Southwire carefully seeks to optimize water use and water waste management to align with global and corporate sustainability goals. In Carrollton, Georgia, the process cooling water for our copper rod mill and two major wire mills comes primarily from runoff captured by storm water collection systems. These systems allow us to reduce our demand on the public drinking water supply system.

Several years ago, Southwire set a 2020 goal to increase water use efficiency by 10 percent from our 2010 baseline. As of 2015, Southwire’s water efficiency improved by 26 percent, far exceeding our original goal. By challenging ourselves to continue to limit the amount of water we draw from the community around us, we help ensure that the system can supply plentiful and clean water for everyone. It is part of our larger commitment to sustainable growth for Southwire. You can read more about our efforts toward Growing Green on our 2015 sustainability website, here.