Automakers have become huge champions of the environment, streamlining production and going green in every conceivable way, from electric yard tractors to huge solar panel arrays. But the amount of water used in auto production is still pretty dramatic; some estimates place the number as high as almost 40,000 gallons of water per car. Ford claims that since the year 2000, they have reduced water usage by 49%, saving about 10.5 billion gallons of water. By 2015, they hope to eliminate water usage a further 30% compared to 2009 levels.
How? Much of the water usage comes from lubricating machining equipment. As someone who has been around this equipment before, I can tell you that the amount of water and oil that goes through these machines is both impressive, and costly (and in the event of a breakdown, quite messy.) Ford has implemented a method known as dry-machining at several of its engine plants. This method sprays an atomized oil mist directly onto the machine tip, cutting down water usage by as much as 280,000 gallons annually.
Ford has also implemented biological membrane reactors and wastewater treatment systems that can send as much as 65% of waste water back through the system for high-quality reuse. What really impresses me though is that Ford had the insight to track all of these statistics. It’s very forward thinking, and great PR besides. They’re a wily bunch, those fellows at the Blue Oval, you’ve got to give them credit. Now the real question is…how low can they go? Water is becoming more precious day by day, and it would behoove the whole auto industry to reduce their H20 consumption by as much as possible. One day, fresh, clean water may be worth more than gold. Now that’s a scary thought.