We track water usage in each of our production facilities to identify areas of high usage and target opportunities for conservation. We are working with vendors and partners to develop water balance processes to help our facilities identify opportunities to decrease water use.
We continue our efforts to reduce water usage by making improvements to the efficiency of our plants and processes around the world.
During 2012, we used 10 million cubic meters of water in our wholly owned production facilities, 2.9 percent less than in 2011.
Eighty-two percent of total usage was from municipal sources, and the other 18 percent was groundwater.
The decrease in the absolute amount was primarily due to our water conservation efforts and reuse projects. In 2012, our water consumption rate was 2.1 cubic meters per metric ton of product, an increase of 1.1 percent over 2011, primarily due to change in the mix of products sold.
We are renewing efforts to meet our goal of a 20 percent decrease by 2015, using 2006 as our baseline year. Water recycling saves 380,000 cubic meters each year.
We fund scalable sustainability projects that drive us toward our corporate footprint reduction targets.
Two examples of this approach include investments to reduce water use at our production facilities in Vineland, New Jersey, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In both cases, we are reusing water only for cooling and cleaning during the production process, separate from water in food products.
At our soup facility in Vineland, we are reusing water to save 190,000 cubic meters of water per year – a 14 percent annual reduction in the plant’s water usage. We are also recovering heat energy to save 14.7 million kilowatt hours of energy (natural gas), representing a 13 percent annual reduction in energy usage.
The plant team achieved these results by using recycled water to cool soup cans during the final stage of canning.
In addition to reducing water usage and energy consumption, the new approach has led to an estimated US$600,000 in combined annual savings.
At our cereal facility in Cedar Rapids, a filtration system installed in 2012 has reduced water usage by 190,000 cubic meters per year. Previously, water was used only once; the new system recirculates up to 75 percent of the water.
As a result, the team predicts that water usage will decrease by nearly 40 percent, equal to about 2 percent of General Mills’ entire global water use. The system also will save US$220,000 annually in water and sewer costs.
The savings at these two plants are a result of plant-driven CI initiatives.