Water use and water quality are priorities at Pilgrim’s and critical pillars in our sustainability program. We recognize that water scarcity is a major global issue and that water is critical to securing a consistent, high-quality global food supply. We embrace our responsibility to reduce water use and strive to improve our water-stewardship efforts by monitoring use at each Pilgrim’s facility and prioritizing usage reductions, while preserving our high standards for food safety and sanitary conditions. We are also aware that some Pilgrim’s facilities are located in water-stressed areas and require a more strategic focus to ensure proper water management. Water quality is an important priority for us as well, and we continuously work to ensure all wastewater we discharge meets or exceeds all legal and internal quality standards.
At Pilgrim’s, water stewardship is crucial to our long-term viability. Companywide, our approach to water stewardship is defined at the corporate level, but individual goals are developed at each facility to ensure ownership and accountability. We work closely and collaboratively with federal, state and local municipalities to address complex issues and jointly develop sustainable solutions. Finally, every facility invests capital annually to make sure the facility stays in alignment with and committed to our Environmental Policy while appropriately addressing local challenges.
Water plays an important role in a safe food supply and is used every day in our facilities so that the highest food safety standards are met. To make sure our efforts to reduce water use do not compromise food safety, we work cross-functionally across our environmental, engineering, operations and food quality and safety teams when designing and implementing water reduction strategies.
Each of our production and further processing facilities has a wastewater treatment program specifically tailored to that facility’s discharge permit requirements. These site-specific programs have helped address noncompliance issues.
Reduce water use intensity by 10%. From 2015 to 2019, our water use intensity has increased 8%.
*Goals set based on 2013, 2014, 2015 average baselines for our U.S. facilities
We track both total water use and water use intensity (water use per lb. of finished product including by-products) to consistently identify opportunities for improvements, irrespective of changes in production. In 2019 across our global facilities, we used 13.8 billion gallons of water, drawing 72% of this water from public municipalities, 23% from groundwater sources and 5% from surface water, including streams. We are pleased to report that from 2018 to 2019, as a global company, our water use intensity decreased by 1%. In 2020, we will continue our focus on water, ensuring that we stay committed to reducing usage of this critical resource while maintaining our high food safety standards.
For our business units in the U.S. and Puerto Rico who participated in our 2020 goal setting, overall water use intensity increased 8% since 2015. This is largely due to increased overall water-use for additional necessary food safety provisions, but we are working diligently to reduce our water intensity and have made water-use a key performance indicator at our plants to help drive change. Our teams will continue to stay focused on improving water use efficiency to work towards our 10% reduction goal by 2020.
In 2019, all of our facilities discharged wastewater according to applicable wastewater treatment permits. We maintain and, where needed, improve facilities and wastewater programs to be in compliance with permits, laws and regulations. Discharged water is measured for its overall quality at each facility to ensure it meets permitting requirements. The majority, 55%, of discharged water is sent to city-owned treatment centers, while 37% is discharged into non-municipalities, and 8% is used as land irrigation.
Pilgrim’s has conducted a comprehensive water risk assessment, inclusive of quantity (baseline water stress, inter-annual variability, seasonal variability, flood occurrence, drought severity, upstream storage and groundwater storage), quality (return flow ratio and upstream protected land) and regulatory and reputational risk (media coverage, access to water and threatened amphibians) for each Pilgrim’s facility location. Overall water risk identifies areas with higher exposure to these water-related risks. As indicated in the graphic below, the majority of our facilities are low to medium or medium to high risk as defined by the World Resources Institute Aqueduct, 2014.
The water risk assessment is a critical element of our water stewardship strategy and allows us to identify and prioritize specific water resource projects that are locally relevant to each watershed and reduce the company’s overall water impact.