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Water Stewardship

WM has determined that water security has a low materiality within our business operations. We do, however, recognize that global water consumption is an increasingly important environmental issue for many others, and are committed to work to use water sparingly and responsibly. Primary water uses include drinking, sanitation, vehicle washing, dust suppression and landscaping.

Enhanced Water Tracking

We estimate that our current annual operations use approximately 915 million gallons of water. After accounting for the water consumed by our employees and operations, we estimate that approximately 693 million gallons of water are returned to either the municipal sewer system or groundwater aquifers, depending on the site’s location. This estimate includes an adjustment for office-based employees who shifted to remote work due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

Our third-party UBM service assists in gathering water and energy usage data across our sites. Through the UBM system, WM can retrieve water withdrawal data by market area, which offers a baseline understanding of consumption patterns on a regional level. The information gathered from this process is used to determine where we may need to develop quantitative goals around water usage.

Water-Related Risks

Severe weather events can cause disruption in operations. In recent years, extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heavy rainfall, extreme flooding, mudslides and wildfires have impacted WM market areas such as Texoma, the Gulf Coast and Southern California. We have developed Emergency Response programs to prepare for severe weather events that include anticipatory action to relocate trucks, secure adequate fuel supplies, flood-proof power supplies, and technology to respond to logistical challenges.

Drought can cause disruption in operations, in particular around the Colorado River. In some parts of the Southwest Region of the United States, particularly in California, prolonged extreme drought conditions could impact some of our operations’ ability to use water in our recycling facilities and transfer stations for odor mitigation and fleet maintenance and in landfill facilities for fugitive dust control.

WM market areas in these affected regions are considering ways to prepare for state-mandated water use reduction policies and regulations. Some affected market areas are implementing conservation and reduction measures such as upgrading current water fixtures to more efficient fixtures, outlining new internal water policies and procedures for measurement and monitoring consumption and reporting.

Reducing Water Impacts

Efficient operations. We continually look for ways to reduce water consumption across our operations, through implementation of graywater initiatives, conservation methods such as fixture replacement or water consumption monitoring, and by implementing globally accepted environmental design guidelines such as LEED and Green Globes. For example, in some market areas, truck wash programs are shifting to use of recycled water to reduce reliance on municipal water.

Innovation to reduce water impacts in products and services. We discuss water quality issues with our suppliers and customers pursuant to our participation in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Project and the Sediment Management Working Group. Both groups fund research on water quality parameters and discuss the interaction between water contamination and discharge standards and coverage. Through our work with these groups, we have been successful at encouraging innovation to reduce water impacts by investigating new technologies and contaminant sampling and testing techniques.

Water stewardship and collaboration. In addition to our work with the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) in certifying wildlife habitat and environmental education at our sites, WM works with WHC on collaborative efforts among nonprofits, government agencies and companies to create water conservation strategies.

WM has additional water initiatives specifically for landfills as outlined in Landfill Stewardship.