Water is a precious, finite resource that must be used and managed responsibly from farm to finished product. Food safety and quality is our top priority, and water is essential to producing safe food. We aim to balance responsible water stewardship with protecting the quality and safety of our products. To better manage our water use, Tyson is developing a water management system that will allow locations to evaluate actual usage rates on a daily basis and make adjustments in a more efficient manner.
Currently, we are working toward a target to reduce our water use intensity 12 percent by 2020 against a baseline of FY2015. Our water intensity decreased in FY2018, totaling a 2.96 percent reduction from our FY2015 baseline. In the coming year, we are continuing to identify and fund sustainable water use reduction projects.
We are currently collaborating with World Resources Institute (WRI) to further refine this goal and establish contextual-based targets that mitigate our water quality and scarcity risks at the facility level. WRI also conducted a water risk assessment in FY2018 that will help inform Water — Water is a critical natural resource to our business – whether it’s irrigation water needed to grow the grain used to provide feed for poultry and livestock or our processing plants where we use water to process animals, cook prepared foods and clean our facilities.
Tyson’s exposure to water-related risks, existing programmatic and engagement gaps, and potential opportunities for improvement across the company’s fresh meat, poultry and prepared foods business.
We do our best to conserve water by developing smarter ways to use it in our food production. For example, at one of our beef plants, changes were made to recycle some of the water used in carcass washes, protecting food safety while saving 65 million gallons of water each year. At a pork plant, new valves on sanitation hoses prevent water from running when a team member is not present. These and other changes will save 5.5 million gallons of water per year. Meanwhile, six poultry plants have implemented changes to reuse process water for a total savings of 287 million gallons annually.
We report our chemical data to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as required by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. Our procedures are regulated by EPA programs, like the Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that govern the release of water that may contain chemicals or other impurities. Water that is released meets EPA’s Effluent Guidelines Program and is safe for the environment. We also report the amount of nitrate compounds included in our wastewater for the EPA’s annual TRI, along with other chemicals.
More than 31 billion gallons of water enter our facilities annually, and the majority is returned to surface waters of the U.S. through our 36 full-treatment and 49 pre-treatment wastewater treatment centers. We use current technology and reclamation systems to conserve and reuse wastewater in our direct operations. Wastewater treatment not only conserves water but, in some locations, also allows the nutrients in the wastewater to be used to grow crops and reduces the need to purchase manufactured commercial fertilizer.
At our Pasco, Washington; Holcomb, Kansas; and Madison, Nebraska, plants, we reused more than 2 billion gallons of wastewater for crop irrigation. More than 4 million pounds of nutrients were collected and redistributed by beneficial soil irrigation practices through this process.