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Water Stewardship

Though our operations are not overly water intensive, as global water consumption increases at a historic pace, we 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 932 million gallons of water. After accounting for the water consumed by our employees and operations, we estimate that approximately 780 million gallons of water are returned to either the municipal sewer system or groundwater aquifers, depending on the site’s location.

Our third-party utility bill management (UBM) service assists in gathering water and energy usage data across our sites. Through the UBM system, Waste Management 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.

FY 2016 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019
Total municipal water supplies (or from other water utilities (million cubic meters) FY 2016: 2.3 FY 2017: 2.3 FY 2018: 2.9 FY 2019: 3.5
Fresh surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) (million cubic meters) FY 2016: FY 2017: FY 2018: FY 2019:
Fresh ground water (million cubic meters) FY 2016: FY 2017: 0.08 FY 2018: 0.06 FY 2019: 0.07
Water returned to the source of
extraction at similar or higher quality as raw water extracted (million cubic meters)
FY 2016: 1.8 FY 2017: 1.9 FY 2018: 2.5 FY 2019: 3.0
Total Net Fresh Water Consumption (million cubic meters) FY 2016: 0.50 FY 2017: 0.52 FY 2018: 0.54 FY 2019: 0.58
Million Cubic Meters

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 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.

Our water risk assessment approach is based on geographic location and types of operation. Each year, our facility list is cross-referenced with the WRI Aqueduct Tool to classify the overall water risk of each site. Sites with an overall water risk of “high” or “extremely high” are deemed as water-stressed for our assessment. Additional local factors are considered, such as drought conditions and overall water availability and vulnerability. For example, in some market areas, truck wash programs are shifting to use of recycled water to reduce reliance on municipal water. We have not identified any inherent water-related risks with the potential to have a substantive financial or strategic impact on our business.

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.

Water-Related Detrimental Impacts

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 Waste Management 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 landfill facilities for fugitive dust control.

Waste Management 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 have identified opportunities to improve water efficiency in operations through water consumption monitoring and by implementing globally accepted environmental design guidelines such as LEED and Green Globes.

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 with the two groups. Our participation in various working groups involves a large network of our suppliers and customers.

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, Waste Management works with WHC on collaborative efforts among nonprofits, government agencies and companies to create conservation strategies.

Partnering with suppliers. As the title sponsor of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO), we work collaboratively with our suppliers to ensure that it is a water-positive event. The WMPO implements conservation measures to ensure that water is used responsibly and limits pressures on the municipal water supply. For example, hand-washing stations use hand sanitizer instead of water.