Water is not just a means of subsistence, but also a means of production and a source of energy. In automobile production, it is impossible to avoid using water – in washing processes in mechanical manufacturing or for cooling, for example. Volkswagen is aware of its responsibility and uses this valuable resource with care. This is also laid down in the Group’s environmental principles: three of the 22 environmental principles for production relate directly to the issue of water.
Water was a top priority issue for the Volkswagen Group in 2014. The Group environmental strategy forms the basis for ensuring that fresh water consumption is taken into account across a vehicle’s entire lifecycle. For example, we started by prioritizing the Group’s locations according to the importance of water to their production processes. This involved checking whether they were located in areas at risk of water scarcity and how secure their water supply was. The aim is to identify measures to help increase the security of supply for a production facility and its surrounding area. This includes on-site measures, such as water-conservation processes, for example, as well as external projects, such as reforestation to boost groundwater regeneration or the renaturation of river courses. The fact that water consumption throughout the Group has fallen by 6.9% per vehicle produced since 2010 testifies to the success of these activities. Water was also the key issue in 2014 for the “Think Blue.Factory.” initiative. Among other brands, the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand made a substantial contribution to reducing water consumption, as shown in the following examples.
At the Osnabrück facility we have reduced our environmental footprint by using waste water and saving fresh water. Instead of replacing water lost through evaporation during spray painting washout with fresh water as we used to do, we now make up the evaporation loss with the waste water from the pretreatment plant. This measure reduces the paint shop’s water consumption by approximately 160 liters for every vehicle produced.
The MAN production facility in Munich uses water from its own well to cool production areas and buildings. By managing and fine-tuning operations to use water only as needed, the amount of water needed for cooling was reduced by some 300,000 m3 in 2014. This also results in a saving of around 9,000 kWh of electricity to operate the water cooling pumps.
At the Curitiba production facility in Brazil, a simple technical solution enables us to save 18,000 m3 of water a year – the factory’s sprinkler systems have to be tested regularly. As of this reporting period, pipes and storage containers are now used to collect the water that previously went to waste and it is then used in cooling processes.
In addition to process optimization, a strong network for the people charged with this responsibility is an important condition for identifying improvement opportunities and making greater savings. That is why we held a two-week workshop for representatives of Shanghai-Volkswagen, Volkswagen Group China and the Group’s environmental department in July 2014, which included visits to several Group locations to look at water management, among other things.