Why Volkswagen Places a Special Focus on Water

Strong need to safeguard the protection of this vital resource
Jun 26, 2014 12:00 PM ET

As part of our Life Cycle Assessments, we did a pioneering analysis of our water footprint. The result: 96% of water consumption is attributable to the production process, most of it upstream and 10% in our own factories. Our scientific paper on this topic won an award from the Environmental Science & Technology Journal. For the first time, Volkswagen managed to compute the proportion of water recovered and reused. Given the large number of sites and the complex production processes, just the first step in a systematic inventory. 45 sites submitted data, and together they used 3.8 million cubic meters of recycled water, corresponding to 8% of their combined freshwater uptake.

It is important to reuse water as often as possible, or to operate a closed cycle, a principle in use at many of the Group’s sites worldwide. Our treatment plants employ innovative membrane or evaporator techniques, allowing the bulk of the process water to be reused. This way, more than 95% of the water remains in the cycle, or else is used for cooling, flushing toilets, and garden irrigation.

As a result, we are very close to achieving our vision of a virtually wastewater-free factory at a number of sites!

Take for example our Wolfsburg plant in Germany. Here, the painting of plastics is virtually free of process water - through the combination of SnowClean, EcoDryScrubber and dehumidifying drying. Another plant in Germany, Salzgitter, treats all industrial wastewater, recycles it completely. Annual water savings: around 30,000 m³. Our Braunschweig plant in Germany has a conductance-controlled water spray metering system in the paintshop which saves 34,380 m³ of water, reducing overall costs by around €232,000.

At our Pune (India) plant, more than 99% of all biodegradable materials are removed using state-of-the-art biological wastewater treatment technologies such as a membrane bio-reactor, allowing water to be reused on-site. At Pune, almost 100% of the wastewater is returned to the cycle. Moreover, the Pune plant uses highly efficient special taps which can reduce freshwater consumption by 75%. In 2013, Volkswagen India was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Triveni Water Institute of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

In Bratislava (Slovakia), in collaboration with Comenius University, we established a crayfish farm supplied with treated wastewater from the Volkswagen plant – the endangered species there thrives under optimum conditions.

At the LEED Platinum certified Volkswagen Chattanooga plant, the world's most sustainable automotive manufacturing facility, rain water collection provides 700,000 toilet flushes a year and cools wielding machines. 6 million gallons of water are saved in the paint shop through the use of a dry scrubber tool.

In Mexico, our environmental program "Think Blue. Nature." includes a major reforestation and youth education project in the national park between the two volcanoes of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl. In the national park near Puebla, 490,000 mountain spruce trees have been planted since 2008 in cooperation with 40 partners from the component supply industry in order to stabilize the water table in the Puebla region. Thanks to the improved seepage of rainwater, an additional water volume of up to four million cubic meters per year is available. 158,000 indigenous trees are being planted in a similar project in Sierra de Lobos, Guanajuato.

You see, we get VERY practical when it comes to water protection. On a global scale.

Read the 1st Volkswagen Sustainability Report highlight

Read the 2nd Volkswagen Sustainability Report highlight