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The Group has a Company-wide water policy that includes a commitment to limiting freshwater withdrawals and consumptions, and to ensuring that the quality status of the water bodies where effluents are discharged remains good, so that the impact on humans and natural biota is minimized.

Solvay’s 2015-2020 environmental plan focuses on reducing two impacts: freshwater withdrawal, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions. The number of sites potentially exposed to water scarcity is no longer reported, as it reflected a Solvay internal program with an indicator that cannot be benchmarked against peers.

  • Freshwater withdrawal (million m3/year): this is the amount of incoming water from freshwater sources (surface and groundwater) and from alternative sources such as drinking water.
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand: this is the amount of reducing substances (mainly dissolved organic matter) discharged to aqueous receivers. COD is expressed as metric tons of oxygen per year. In addition to nitrogen and phosphorus species, COD contributes to aquatic eutrophication.
Water intake and discharge








Freshwater withdrawal (million m3)







Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) emissions (metric tons O2)







Due to a change in corporate reporting rules regarding waste water plants treating effluents from third parties, the COD on the site of Spinetta-Marengo (Italy) has been recalculated over the whole period 2014-2016.

The Group’s recent improvement in freshwater intake was achieved thanks to:

  • deconsolidation of the divested Acetow (-29.6 million m3) and Emerging Biochemicals (-3.4 million m3) businesses;
  • decommissioning or sale of different sites (Bussi sul Tirino, Bad Zurzach, etc.) for a total of -8.8 million m3;
  • mothballing of the soda ash plant at Alexandria (Egypt) since March 2015 (-1.8 million m3).

Because of an increased production volume, there was a higher water intake (+ 7.6 million m3) at the Chalampé site in France.

The Group’s improvement for COD emissions is due to the following beneficial effects:

  • the Vernon site in the USA (-517 metric tons): reduction in production volume and improvement of the efficiency of the waste water treatment unit;
  • mothballing of the soda ash plant at Alexandria (Egypt) since March 2015 (-334 metric tons);
  • deconsolidation of the divested Acetow and Emerging Biochemicals businesses (-211 metric tons).

Water management

Water intake and consumption (graphic)

The left side of the graphic above shows water intakes (million m3/year) from the main water sources. Other intakes include additional water sources: water recycled from third-party, rainwater, etc. The Group’s total water intake in 2016 reached 580 million m3, 85% of which was freshwater.

The right side of the graphic above shows water discharges (million m3/year) to the most important receiving environments. Water discharges to other receptors (external waste water treatment plants, underground injection, etc.) are in the category “other”. The Group’s total water discharge in 2016 amounts to 535 million m3, 80% of which discharged to the freshwater receptors.

Water loss by evaporation (19 million m3) takes place in ICTs (Industrial Cooling Towers) or basins.

The circular arrow at the center-bottom of the graphic shows the total volume of water which was recycled with closed-loop cooling systems or re-used. Based on the data in this diagram, we calculate that recycled water accounts for around 58% of the total volume of water used in 2016.

The flask on the right-hand side corresponds to the volume of water exported through manufactured aqueous end-products (commercial hydrogen peroxide, for instance, typically contains 30-70% water), whereas the waste bin symbolizes the estimated amount of water losses through disposal or incineration of our waste materials (sludge, etc.).

Solvay’s objectives:


- 30%

of freshwater intensity


- 30%

of Chemical Oxygen Demand intensity

Baseline 2015

Water intensity








Freshwater withdrawal intensity (litres per € EBITDA)







Chemical oxygen demand intensity (Kg per € EBITDA)







Solvay’s 2016 achievement for freshwater intake intensity is slightly better than the expected 2016 target. For the COD emission intensity, our progress is even 8 % better than foreseen.