Though our operations are not relatively water intensive, as global water consumption increases at a historic pace we work to use water sparingly and responsibly in our operations. Primary water uses include vehicle washing, dust suppression, sanitation and employee consumption.
Waste Management operates facilities ranging from landfills and hauling facilities to transfer stations and recycling facilities, dispersed across 17 market areas in the U.S. and Canada. We also own or lease office space throughout North America. Due to the geographic and operational variations in the facilities we operate — as well as the numerous utility providers — obtaining complete operational water consumption data can be a challenge.
Enhanced Water Tracking
We estimate that our current annual operations use approximately 627.5 million gallons of water. After accounting for the water consumed by our employees and operations, we estimate that approximately 490.8 million gallons of water is returned to either the municipal sewer system or groundwater aquifers, depending on the site’s location.
In 2016, we began employing a third-party utility bill management (UBM) service to assist in gathering water and energy usage data across our sites. Through the UBM system, Waste Management can now retrieve water withdrawal data by market area, which offers a baseline understanding of consumption patterns on a regional level. Our goal is to complete the enablement of all sites into the UBM system. Utilizing the information gathered from this process, we will be developing more meaningful quantitative goals around water usage.
Water Risk Assessment
The ability to pull consumption data by site also enables us to complete water risk mapping. By overlaying our regional water use with geographic information regarding water stress, we can both focus conservation efforts to minimize Waste Management’s impacts where they are potentially most detrimental and develop effective risk mitigation and action plans to minimize disruptions to our business that may occur due to inadequate water quantity or quality.
Currently, 20 percent of our water consumption occurs at sites located in water-stressed regions. We continually strive to reduce the amount of water consumed in these regions through innovative programs such as using recycled graywater for truck washing to reduce dependence on the municipal water supply.
While we are still in the process of applying a standardized process to capture quantitative data on water recycling and reuse initiatives, we are moving forward with implementation of the initiatives themselves. We continually look for ways to reduce water consumption across our operations, whether through implementation of graywater initiatives, fixture replacement or other conservation methods. In addition, we engage with other stakeholders by working with policymakers and trade associations on water policy through our work with the RCRA Corrective Action Project (RCAP) and the Sediment Management Work Group on sediment sites. Waste Management reports on our operations and supply chain impacts on water and responds to our customers’ and investors’ requests for this information through CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project).
Finally, we utilize the Waste Management Phoenix Open to highlight water concerns and coordinate restoration efforts. We have reported our water consumption since baselining the tournament’s operations, and we implement a graywater capture program that reduces freshwater consumption by 5,000 to 6,000 gallons each year. In 2018, we worked with The Thunderbirds as well as Kohler and M Culinary to restore 75 million gallons, or 283.91 megaliters, to Northern Arizona rivers and streams. Since initiating this effort with Change the Course in 2015, the Waste Management Phoenix Open has been responsible for the restoration of 236 million gallons of water to the Verde River and other freshwater ecosystems in Arizona.