No more mindless consumption of water

Industries are paying too little for water – but for how much longer?

Increasing numbers of companies around the world are facing harsh reality when their local communities are unable or unwilling to supply industry with freshwater. Mining investments in Chile are being cancelled, soft drink bottling plants in India are shutting down, sports car manufacturing in Germany is being halted… cases like these continue to increase across many sectors in virtually every region of the world.

More extensive and better use of environmental, water treatment and recycling technologies is in the interest of everyone. Industry poses a threat to the blue planet’s freshwater supply. That said, it is also becoming increasingly obvious that the restrictions being imposed on the use of freshwater are also a threat to industry.

“Water pricing for industrial usage is completely wrong. No other raw material is so cheap. But water is a necessity for all people and therefore cannot be too expensive to afford. It is an imbalance that has caused delays to much needed reforms and changes.”

Johan Brandberg, VD Vilokan Group

Freshwater is far too cheap for the good of the planet. The market price is set way too low relative to the impacts on the environment caused by withdrawal of freshwater. Not only is this a well-known fact in the industrial world, it is something that is not sustainable in the long run. Forward-thinking companies are therefore setting higher internal water prices to make their financial calculations more sustainable. After all, it is only a matter of time before a wrong price is corrected. 

According to the 2023 report published by the CDP, it is evident that the efficiency savings achieved by the companies that apply a more realistic water price are 6 times greater than those of others. Savings that amount to billions of dollars. The companies are future-proofing their operations by creating a scenario that is inevitable. Major international investors have been taking water-related risks into account for many years. What is the approach to water pricing of the organisation in which you work? Is it ahead or lagging behind?

Read more about hopeful signs of restrictions on freshwater withdrawal in the future:

In 1995, Vilokan created the first factory in Sweden to have zero discharge to sewer. It was Volvo’s manufacturing plant in Floby. There have been many more since then. What makes it special is that individual operations can be optimised based on environmental considerations. Whether the factory has limited or zero water supply and discharge is decided in consultation with the local water company. It is also important not to clean the wastewater more than necessary for circulation in the production processes. Treating water on-site also uses energy, so it is about finding a balance.

Volvo has been a pioneer in Swedish industry and international vehicle manufacturing. We are currently seeing major areas of the automotive industry undergoing drastic changes relative to water usage and emissions. Having implemented rainwater collection and water recycling systems, Nissan’s facility in India is now able to operate for 130 days without an external supply of water. Ford has cut its water usage by 40% since 2015 and is aiming for zero water withdrawal by 2050.

Healthy competition and innovation can change the world. Industry has the capital, expertise and incentives to improve global water security.