As a company committed to reducing water intensity across its global operations by 15 percent by 2020, General Motors is constantly looking for innovative ways to conserve water and increase efficiencies. This mindset has led the automaker to adopt a circular economy approach to maximizing water reuse in water-stressed regions, such as Mexico.
In 2008, General Motors’ San Luis Potosi facility in Mexico became the first zero liquid discharge plant in the company’s history. Due to the lack of municipal sewer services and water stress in the area, the assembly plant developed and perfected a closed treatment system that purifies and transforms wastewater into reusable water for the facility’s paint and machining processes, as well as irrigation, resulting in zero liquid discharge at the end of the treatment cycle. Since then, this solution has become a key part of the facility’s operation in the area, where water use is restricted.
Building on the success of this closed loop approach is General Motors’ Silao Complex, where the production facility is working to achieve near zero liquid discharge using a similar water management process.
Collaborating with Arcadis, an engineering consulting firm, and leveraging its engineering analysis, General Motors developed a water recycling project in 2015, in response to the declining water levels in water wells in Silao. While this project is still in the installation phase, data shows that General Motors will be able to recycle and reuse up to 85 percent of its wastewater – an increase from the 25 percent that it currently recycles – and decrease the amount of groundwater it extracts on a daily basis by half. Not only will this greatly decrease the amount of wastewater discharged to municipal facilities, but this project will yield beneficial cost savings as the automaker is required to pay for rights to access groundwater.
This partnership with Arcadis is a key example of General Motors’ inherent collaborative approach when it comes to reducing its environmental footprint and scaling impact. For the automaker, effective water management is not just about reducing water use within its factory walls, but about engaging the right partners at the right time to implement solutions that minimize the stress placed on local water sources and help local communities.