Water serves to cool equipment and to generate steam that is used to produce energy and thus is an important consumable and auxiliary material in the entire production and processing cycle.
Thanks to circular systems and repeated utilization of process water, voestalpine uses water resources as sparingly as possible. In keeping with ISO 14046 and the integrated LCA approach, assessments of the water circulation systems are performed across all production steps and sites.
The amount of water used fell from 703 million m3 in 2019 to 678 million m3 in 2020. Most of it (92%) was sourced from surface water for cooling purposes and returned back to the source in the same quality. The direct net consumption of freshwater fell from 12.5 million m3 to 12.4 million m3, which equates to an unchanged 1.32 m3 per ton of product. Upstream steel production accounted for most of the indirect consumption of 47.4 million m3 (2019: 47.9 million m3) in absolute terms and 5.03 m3 (2019: 5.03 m3) per ton of product.
The impact of voestalpine’s process plants on local water systems thus is relatively low and does not aggravate conditions in regions already affected by water scarcity. This is the finding of an externally verified study that determined the water scarcity footprint based on an analysis of all production activities across the entire value chain (“cradle to gate”). Determining the “blue water consumption” (i.e., the net consumption of freshwater) and/or the water scarcity footprint of each and every production facility involves analyzing the ways they contribute to the given region’s water scarcity in detail, also taking local hydrogeological conditions into account.