Source: World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Each person in the US state of Florida uses about 1,720-2,160 liters of water per day, and with thousands of people moving to the state each month, public water supply needs near DuPont's plant are expected to double by 2025. Drinking water comes from two sources: surface water and groundwater. Supplying drinking water to a growing state like Florida is a challenge because 90% of the state's drinking water supply comes from groundwater, ranking Florida second in the United States for groundwater use.
Because groundwater is unlikely to meet the needs of the growing population without causing harm to natural systems, DuPont knew it was time for cooperative programs to ensure a sustainable water supply and find alternative supplies.
DuPont's Florida plant is a surface mining operation that supplies three main products:
- Titanium ore used to manufacture titanium dioxide
- Zircon used in ceramics such as china and by foundries for casting molds when pouring molten metal
- Staurolite, a sand-blasting material that is recyclable and has low dusting properties.
Groundwater, a vital part of factory processes, serves as the primary method to transport the product in slurry form and to clean the products prior to separation and shipment. DuPont has long realized this water is a precious natural resource critical to a sustainable operation and to the nearby communities.
An aggressive water conservation program launched in 1996 limited the plant to consuming 7.87 million cubic meters of groundwater per year for process needs. Since then, the plant has reduced its groundwater use by 5.68 million cubic meters per year (75%). The facility's approach comprised three key measures: water conservation initiatives, performance tracking and community engagement.
It all began with a complete site assessment, the development of a site water balance and installation of water consumption flow meters in strategic areas. Based on the data collected, the company initiated several projects.
Water conservation projects included the replacement of groundwater with clean effluent water to areas of the operation that could operate on recycled water. Projects also included upgrading piping and valuing schemes to improve efficiency and eliminate losses. Since 1996, DuPont has invested approximately US$ 800,000 to achieve the 75% reduction.
The facility also tracks weekly and monthly water consumption, giving a weekly snapshot of consumption trends. This trend data is communicated to all personnel through the site's Safety Health and Environment Climate Index and serves as a key metric in the site's operating "dashboard."
The opportunity for water conservation was leveraged when a Six Sigma project and associated methodology was used in a high water use operating area. The Six Sigma project achieved significant reductions, and the control plan continues to sustain the gains.
The Florida plant has taken a leadership role in a local Keystone Height Lakes Advisory Council (KHLAC), made up of concerned citizens, governmental and regulatory agencies, elected officials and industry. The group's goal is to collaborate in identifying actions that could enhance watershed drainage to local lakes that are low due to drought and increased water demands.
The site has been very active in dealing with low lake levels by funding and participating in drainage improvement projects and redirecting over 1.9 million liters per day of the site's treated final effluent to the watershed of the low-level lakes. The company had to first confirm that the redirection of effluent from one watershed to another would not cause any adverse impact to the ecosystems involved.
The lakes the council has focused on are part of the recharge system for the Floridian Aquifer, the major groundwater source for the state. Only 15% of the state is considered a recharge area for the Floridian Aquifer; thus, work to replenish lake levels in the region also has a positive impact on a natural resource for the entire state of Florida.