World Water Day 2019: safeguarding freshwater supply

21 March 2019

Our improvements in water efficiency have reduced the specific freshwater withdrawal in our cement operations by 19% since 2015. Over this period, LafargeHolcim has saved about 10 million m3 of freshwater, enough to meet the annual water requirements of up to a million people in developing countries. On World Water Day 2019, we a pleased to share with you best practice stories from our teams in the UK and India in safeguarding our planet's most precious resource.

 

How Ambuja Cement Foundation transformed its communities through water

Recently becoming six-times water positive, our Indian subsidiary Ambuja Cement has recharged natural water resources far more than they were withdrawing. Many of the plants operate within water-scarce regions, so by focusing on water harvesting, drinking water solutions and water use efficiency, Ambuja helps build drought resilient villages to ensure water is available for farmers and communities all year round.

From 2000 to 2018 Ambuja Cement Foundation has constructed more than 7000 rooftop rainwater harvesting structures at homes in the communities that surround the plant, giving approximately 50,000 people access to safe water.

Beyond the immediate physical benefits, collecting water now takes a fraction of the time, freeing the women and young girls who this fell to previously to contribute to their communities in other ways, with both women’s employment and girl’s school attendance rising. Dialogue with community groups forms an important part of the planning, implementation and management of projects such as groundwater recharge and water-efficient irrigation systems. Initiatives such as these have played an important role in recognizing Ambuja Cement in many national and international sustainability awards.

 

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How Cauldon achieved zero freshwater withdrawal through its rehabilitation efforts

Lafarge Cauldon Limited in the UK is an example of how through rehabilitation, an exhausted shale quarry can be turned into an important water resource not only for Cauldon Cement plant but for the surrounding community as well. Cauldon Cement plant used to draw its water from the River Hamps, a site of special conservation status. Each summer, parts of the River Hamps dried out. To avoid withdrawing from this river, an artificial lake was created in the old shale quarry allowing the plant to collect and store rainwater, which is then used for the cement operations.

In addition to reducing abstraction from the River Hamps, the shale lake also functions as a flood control and containment facility thus reducing the impact of flash flooding on the nearby Waterhouses village. Potential contamination of the River Hamps is also prevented as any water discharge from the Cement plant now goes directly through an interceptor into the lake. The shale lake restoration project has helped improve the external appearance of the exhausted quarry. The community-built bird hide by the lake now serves as an important natural wildlife habitat and created a great stop off for walkers enjoying the new walk around the quarry.

 

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Our sustainable water management practices leave no community behind.

Our sustainable water management practices leave no community behind.

Water is an essential resource in our operations. The demand for water is only expected to increase, especially in areas of water scarcity; and with 17% of our cement sites located in water scarce areas, it is vital to address this.

While reducing freshwater withdrawal is a key component of our sustainability ambition, we also recognize that there are opportunities to protect and enhance the local water supply for community use, ecosystem functions, and business operations.