Water is critical to us, our customers and our industry, as well as to our communities worldwide. We continually seek ways to reduce unnecessary water consumption in our operations, reuse water for non-critical purposes where possible, and treat and recycle water whenever we can, while maintaining strict quality standards. We are also working to better understand our impacts and risks in current and future water-stressed regions.
We re-imagine a future in which:
As part of our overall operations goal, we are committed to reducing water use from our operations by 10% by 2015, compared to our 2006 baseline levels.
We are already doing this through the implementation of successful water-saving initiatives. We will continue to explore and implement additional innovative programs to further decrease our water use and improve the quality of water released from our operations.
In an effort to increase water efficiency, the majority of our facilities use high-efficiency faucets and high-efficiency toilets. In Danvers, Massachusetts, as part of the LEED Certification process for the clean rooms, restrooms were upgraded with low flush toilets and high efficiency faucets, reducing water use by 50%, the equivalent of 715,440 liters per year.
In addition, we have a smart irrigation system at our major U.S. sites that taps into local weather data and determines the appropriate amount of water required for irrigation. The system takes into account information such as historic and forecasted rainfall and solar irradiation. This system reduces watering requirements by up to 30% when compared to conventional watering techniques. Furthermore, at our Temecula, California location, native drought resistant plants have been used to further reduce the requirement for watering while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere.
While our production activities in severely water-stressed regions are limited, we do recognize our responsibility to contribute to good water management by controlling and limiting wastewater discharge to the extent possible, as well as to continually reduce our water consumption in current and future water stressed areas and regions. To address these issues, we continually work with our corporate EHS team to assess water risks associated with our global sites. We have most recently used the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Water Risk Filter. From this analysis, we are directly working with our sites to identify and implement best practices in water-saving projects.
Whenever possible, we look for opportunities to reuse our water. A water footprint study at two of our largest facilities led to an innovative project that reclaims Reverse Osmosis Ultrafiltration (ROUF) reject water for use in our Wastewater Treatment Plant air scrubbers. Together, these projects save 15,400 m3 of water annually—more than enough to fill six Olympic swimming pools.
A graywater reuse system devised by an Merck technician at our lab facility in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France is saving over 1,438 m3 of water per year, equivalent to over half of the water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
In addition, water reuse and wastewater treatment in our Durapore® product manufacturing line in Jaffrey, New Hampshire has saved almost 380 million liters of water and significantly reduced wastewater discharge. The project has resulted in less water withdrawn from the on-site bedrock wells. Water savings to date is equivalent to about 150 Olympic swimming pools, while cost savings associated with reduced wastewater discharge has totaled more than €769,000.
We are continuing to conduct water footprint studies at our manufacturing sites and incorporating best practices to further reduce and reuse water, where possible.
In addition to focusing on water efficiency and reuse in our operations, we also focus on improving water quality and wastewater treatment. The treatment of wastewater, and thus the prevention of environmental pollution, is a fundamental part of our corporate environmental protection measures worldwide.
In 2011-2012, Merck KGaA made significant revisions to its Group-wide “Water Protection” standard. Based on our Responsible Care obligations, this standard defines the processes and responsibilities that are required for clean wastewater at Merck KGaA covers the hiring of third parties to handle it and requires all sites to estimate and assess the specific risks and effects of wastewater. The individual sites must develop and implement a water pollution response plan that features specific measures to prevent wastewater or reduce its volume.
At Merck, we are taking proactive action with respect to water quality and the treatment of wastewater. Our upgraded and redesigned Wastewater Treatment Plant in Cork, Ireland has reduced the amount of organic pollutants found in its wastewater by more than 95% and ensures continued compliance.