Ford drives forward with water stewardship goals

Ford has reinforced its sustainability commitments with a new target to reduce its water use by nearly three-quarters since the turn of the millennium, as the US automotive firm moves towards using zero potable water for vehicle manufacturing processes.

The company, which recorded almost $150bn (£122bn) revenue in 2015, announced today (20 October) that it is aiming to reduce its water usage per vehicle by 72% by 2020, expanding on its savings of 377 billion litres or water – a 61% reduction – since the year 2000. 

That means that for every 3.7 litres of water Ford used in manufacturing processes in 2000, it aims to use about one litre by 2020. 

Ford also now aims to use no drinking water in manufacturing processes by the same 2020 deadline.

Director of the environmental quality office for Ford Andrew Hobbs said: “We recognize water is a critical resource, so we established an aggressive 2020 target, building on our successful reduction efforts to date.”

“We are exploring innovative ways to reduce our footprint, starting with our aspirational goal of zero potable water use in our manufacturing processes. From there, we have a final goal of zero water withdrawal for our manufacturing processes.”

Process efficiency

In 2013, the company hit its previous goal of decreasing water use per vehicle by 30% from 2009 to 2015. To achieve these water reductions, Ford has developed and implemented a number of new water efficiency technologies such as the ‘3-wet’ paint process, which allows for three layers of paint – primer, base and enamel – to be applied to a vehicle one after another, without manual intervention and while each layer is still wet, which eliminates one booth water wash section of the paint process.

The carmaker has also developed a ‘dry paint overspray system’, which effectively eliminates water use from the vehicle painting process; it has also increased its use of internal water meters throughout its manufacturing plants and is rolling out new technologies at its cooling towers such as electrolytic water softening which increases cooling tower cycles of concentration, thus lowering consumption.


The global motor industry consumes huge volumes of water through the various production processes. Estimations show that producing a single car requires more than 39,000 gallons of water to be manufactured. Water-intensive processes include surface coating and treatment, cooling and rinsing. On top of this water use, carmakers also generate large volumes of wastewater, which needs to be properly treated in order to meet environmental regulations.

Ford and Toyota were the only two motor companies to earn an “A” grade for their water conservation efforts in a recent report compiled by the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP).

Alex Baldwin

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