In 2014, a global water-risk study supplied us with fundamental information for the creation of a Group-wide guideline concerning sustainable water management in the cement, aggregates, and ready-mixed concrete business lines. The study showed that 14.3% of our plants are located in regions that are officially defined as suffering from water scarcity, i.e. regions where less than 1,000 m3 of water is available per person each year.
In response to this situation, we began developing individual water management plans for these facilities in 2015 and want to extend this measure to all of these plants by 2030. The plans include concepts and measures for reducing water consumption in order to ensure the sustainable use of scarce water resources. In addition, the plans aim to involve external local stakeholders in order to ensure the water utilisation concepts promote the common good so that local water risks are minimised. We will begin this process at those locations where water scarcity is an especially urgent problem.
In recent years, we have also introduced a water reporting system at all of our company’s cement plants. As a result, we have been able to report reliable consumption figures for the second year in a row. By the end of 2016, HeidelbergCement had also equipped half of its cement plants with water recycling systems. The specific water consumption amounted to roughly 300 litres per tonne of cement in 2016. This figure also includes the newly acquired Italcementi plants.
In 2015, we started to introduce these indicators at our aggregates and ready-mixed concrete business lines as well. However, we are only collecting this information in regions suffering from water stress, due to the large number of plants involved. In this context, water stress means that less than 1,700 m3 of water are available per person each year. This information will be collected at all of our plants in the affected regions by 2030.
Water Resource Protection and Conservation, Water Consumption and Processing
At all of its quarries, HeidelbergCement collects any surface water that has accumulated and removes it in a way that ensures there is no pollution or flooding of the quarry site or the surrounding area. No water is channelled into existing surface waters in the area without previous approval from the local authorities. Regular training sessions for our employees and external controls ensure that the mandatory procedures are adhered to.
Water is used to clean gravel and sand and to manufacture cement and concrete. We obtain some of this water from the public supply system, but most of it is taken from groundwater or rivers and lakes. Removal of groundwater and surface water is subject to strict governmental regulation worldwide and is regularly monitored.
Some of the water - e.g. the portion used for cooling - evaporates and is thus released into the atmosphere. The production process water that remains is purified and released back into surface waters in a carefully controlled process. Water that is used to clean transport vehicles is recycled. Normal wastewater from company buildings is disposed of via the municipal wastewater systems.
During all of these processes, we continuously strive to prevent pollution. Because the production process in quarries and gravel pits does not chemically alter the water that is used there, these sites contain no pollutants.