Why is WATER an important issue?
WATER is at the heart of every aspect of human development. We need water for health, food, energy, the environment and economic growth.
Globally, threats to water availability are increasing. Global population growth — expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050 — puts a strain on this already stressed resource. According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, demand for fresh water has increased by a factor of six over the past 100 years and continues to grow steadily at a rate of about 1 percent per year. By 2050, global water demand will be 30 percent higher than today and up to 3 billion people could be living in potentially severely water-scarce areas. In the United States alone, 40 of 50 state water managers expect shortages in some portion of their states over the next 10 years.
Additionally, water quality is deteriorating, further straining this finite resource. Globally, over 80 percent of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the environment without being treated or reused. This rising demand for water threatens the safety and health of people and impacts the balance of nature.
Addressing water challenges is critical to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity that establishes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Businesses are expected to play a significant role in achieving the bold and transformative steps urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path and achieve the SDGs. Toyota is committed to doing our part to ensure sustainable water use. That's why Toyota named "Water" as one of our four focus areas in North America and why, globally, it is the focus of Challenge 4 of the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050.
What are we doing to better manage WATER?
Here in North America, our water strategy emphasizes sustainable water management. Our projects focus on conserving water, protecting water resources and raising community awareness about the importance of water conservation.
Team members are always on the lookout for ways to save water. The more water we recycle and reuse, the less we have to bring in from fresh water sources. This is especially important in areas of water stress, where water isn't always readily available. We've installed reverse osmosis systems and membrane bio reactors and implemented a variety of projects to get as much out of every drop as we can. Last year alone, these projects helped us recycle and reuse 623 million gallons of water — enough for the annual water use of 5,689 average American families (based on U.S. EPA estimates that the average American family uses 300 gallons of water per day at home).
Toyota's assembly plant in Baja California, Mexico is one of a handful of Toyota sites around the world identified by the company as being at high risk for water availability. The plant uses a membrane bio reactor to remove solids from water that has already been used in the manufacturing process. This filtered water is then run through a reverse osmosis system to eliminate any dissolved solids. The plant is able to reuse water over and over again, which saves an estimated 23 million gallons of water annually.
Protecting Water Resources
Protecting water quality is a key component of Toyota's approach to water stewardship. Some of our sites discharge wastewater, which we monitor and treat to meet local, state and federal regulations. In fact, Toyota requires all manufacturing sites to operate below wastewater discharge permit limits by an average of 20 percent. Our sophisticated wastewater treatment systems, along with site plans to manage storm water, ensure we don't negatively impact water bodies.
At Toyota's port facility in Portland, Oregon, water stewardship is top-of-mind. From flushing toilets to washing vehicles and managing storm water, team members look for ways to conserve and protect this precious resource. For example, a 4-acre bioswale helps to filter water that flows into the Willamette River, thereby improving its quality and protecting the wide variety of species living in and near the river.
Since 2012, Toyota and the Wyland Foundation have presented the annual National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation. The campaign encourages residents across the U.S. to make small changes in their lives to better manage water resources and improve the health of our oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Each year, hundreds of thousands of participants make pledges that have the potential to save billions of gallons of water.
What do we plan to do next?
Toyota has been developing five-year environmental action plans for 30 years. These plans help us manage our impacts and hold us accountable for our performance.
Here in North America, we recently announced our new five-year environmental action plan for fiscal years 2022 to 2026. This plan is our seventh and runs from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2026. Our first report on progress against these targets will be published in 2022.
Our water targets are to:
Each five-year action plan puts us further along the path to achieving the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 (Challenge 2050). Challenge 2050 is a set of six challenges that seek to go beyond eliminating environmental impacts to creating net positive value for the planet and society. The six challenges are the most demanding and most inspiring environmental commitments Toyota has ever made.
Goal #4 on WATER calls on Toyota affiliates around the world to conserve water and protect water resources. For more information about our 2050 water strategy for North America, see "Water: Toyota Motor North America Position Statement."