World Water Day: how does climate change impact our operations?

Droughts, floods and increasing competition: over the coming decades, climate change will have a direct impact on the quality and availability of fresh water right around the world, and therefore on the business activities of Lafarge. On World Water Day, find out more about what we are doing to improve the way we manage water and prevent the risks posed by climate change.

03.22.2015
 
Water Day 2015 World Map

 

 

How is water used in our operations?

The Group consumes more than 92 million cubic meters of water every year for a range of different uses that vary from one core business to another:

  • Cement  (46% of our total consumption): water is used to cool furnaces (often in a closed circuit) and in dust filters, where it converts dust to steam.
  • Aggregates  (45%): water is used in those of our quarries that wash their aggregates, although this is not the case in all our quarries.
  • Concrete  (9%): water is used in the manufacture of our products. In our concrete plants, it is also used to clean trucks and the site itself.

Climate change: the water-related risks faced by our sites and operations

With the Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris this December, 2015 is a year in which climate change is high on everyone's agenda.

 

On World Water Day, we take a closer look at the effects of climate on this element crucial to human life. Climate change impacts water resources at global level. So Lafarge operations will become increasingly exposed to water-related risks in future decades: 

 

  • Increased levels of competition over water use in those regions with high water stress: the combined impact of climate change and demographic growth will intensify competition for water between domestic, agricultural and industrial uses. By 2030, the resources available should just about cover the needs of agriculture, which will remain the priority to the detriment of industries such as ours.

    How will this impact our operations? 
    Today, 17 Lafarge cement production units are located in areas of water scarcity, and a further 4 will join them between now and 2050. In order to conserve water for agriculture and domestic use, local authorities could impose any or all of the following on Lafarge:

    • Restrictions on water consumption, and therefore on plant operation;
    • Temporary suspensions of plant operation. 

 

  • Increased intensity and frequency of flooding : our 30 cement plants in flood risk areas, such as India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and China, will experience more significant, more extensive and more frequent floods.

    > How will this impact our operations?

    • Our operating sites, quarries, cement plants and concrete production plants could be put out of action for lengthy periods. For example, in 2007, operations at our Ashaka plant in Nigeria were suspended for four months as a result of flooding.
    • Some roads could become unusable, preventing us from delivering products and receiving supplies of raw materials, both of which could give us no choice but to suspend operations.

 

Overall, 51 Lafarge cement production units will be affected by climate change-related risks by 2050. These risks translate into potential significant losses of income for Lafarge, especially since the regions concerned are high-potential markets for our business (Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, China, India, etc.).

 

Water: our Sustainability Ambitions 2020

We have set ourselves the target of enhancing local watershed sustainability through two courses of action:

  • Having 100% of cement and aggregate operations completing water risk assessments by 2014.
  • Having 100% of operations in water impacted areas to engage local stakeholders in developing a local watershed sustainability plan and reduce water impact by 2020.

 

Our Sustainability Ambitions 2020 on Water

Our initiatives for improved management of our water footprint

To prevent these risks, we are working to reduce water consumption on every one of our sites located in areas of water scarcity, and to develop water management plans in conjunction with our local stakeholders. As part of our Sustainability Ambitions 2020, we have made a series of commitments at local level:

 

  • Within our operations:
    • We are adapting our facilities to reduce water consumption (bag filters in cement plants, recycling loops, holding tanks and recovery tanks);
    • We are rehabilitating our aggregates and cement quarries to create areas of wetland , and in some cases reconstituting the water table;
    • We are signing agreements with other industries to reuse their used water , as is already the case at Volos in Greece;
    • We are developing products that promote effective drainage of water , such as our Hydromedia™ pervious concrete.

 

  • In conjunction with our stakeholders and in partnership with NGOs:
    • We are facilitating access to water for our local communities;
    • We are engaged in volunteering initiatives to raise public awareness of water challenges.

 

As a result of all these initiatives, we have succeeded in reducing our consumption of water by 7.4% since 2013.