For some years now, Ford has been on a mission to reduce its water consumption in manufacturing. Its long-term target is to reach zero water consumption in manufacturing, and with each passing year, it’s getting a little closer to achieving that goal. Thus, on World Water Day, which takes place each year on March 22nd, Ford took the time to provide a status update on its water reduction plan.
Two decades ago, Ford set out to reduce its per-vehicle water usage by 72 percent. By 2013, the automaker had already saved more than 10 billion gallons of water. In perhaps more digestible terms, that’s the same as 15,000 competition-sized swimming pools or over 3 hours, 40 minutes of Niagara Falls flow.
Ford’s Global Technology and Business Centre (GTBC) in Chennai, which opened in 2019, earned its Platinum green building rating at launch – the highest possible certification for sustainable buildings. The globally recognized certificate not only factors in water conservation but also sustainable design, architecture, and building material resources, energy conservation including use of renewable energy resources, indoor environment quality, and innovation and development.
At the Ford Chennai Vehicle Assembly and Engine Plant (VAEP) in India, freshwater consumption has reached a level of 1.17 m3 per vehicle – down from 7.3 m3 per vehicle only a decade ago. Having identified an alternate source of greywater to treat for use in non-production activities, the smart water efficiency processes see it recycle almost 100 percent of industrial wastewater for use in manufacturing.
Ford’s other Indian-based VAEP in water-scarce Sanand boasts zero water discharge, with a 110,000 m3 rainwater harvesting pond used for pallet washing, irrigation, and with plans in place to replace the cooling tower’s water with rainwater, too. Incidentally, Ford GTBC can also claim zero discharge thanks to its 100 percent reuse of treated wastewater for dual plumbing, horticulture, and cooling tower chiller.
While there are no specific regulations or usage restrictions on water use at the Ford Hai Duong Assembly Plant in Vietnam – which draws from the Thai Binh River – a membrane bioreactor (MBR) based sewage treatment plant has recently been installed which, when it becomes fully operational in June 2021, will enable Ford Vietnam to recycle water.
In Thailand, both Ford Thailand Manufacturing (FTM) and Auto Alliance Thailand (AAT) receive a small quantity of recycled water from the government for use across its horticulture and washing requirements but have aspirations to expand water conservation efforts, including the possibility of reusing treated wastewater back into the manufacturing plant.
Last year, Ford South Africa announced the launch of Project Blue Oval, a renewable energy project which aligns with the company’s global target of using 100 percent locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In its first phase, construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at the Ford Silverton Assembly Plant will go a long way to seeing the Pretoria property become entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024 – the very first Ford plant to achieve that status.
Also included in Project Blue Oval planning is the implementation of treated wastewater reuse at the assembly plant. The short-term goal will be to capture 100 percent of the facility’s wastewater for recycling and to reuse the maximum available volume back into the manufacturing process. The long-term goal will be to identify and utilize alternative non-fresh water sources to eliminate the use of fresh water in manufacturing entirely.
“Some of our Ford production plants around the globe are in what could be considered water-stressed areas, which means it’s our responsibility to act consciously to protect one of our most vital resources,” said Caro Hosier, director of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering for Ford International Markets Group. “Despite the exceptional advancements already made in water conservation, Ford continues to look for new innovative and efficient ways to achieve its long-term goal of using zero drinkable water in its manufacturing.”