Reducing Our Water Usage

Modern societies are reliant on water and energy, and these two life essentials are interlinked. While energy production depends heavily on water, the overwhelming use of water globally goes to watering fields to grow food. Limiting water for agriculture reduces food security. However, if we cut water for industry we stifle economic growth.

So what are we to do?

The answer is, to do what we can in a systematic and planned manner with set goals and measurable outcomes.


Mining needs large amounts of water. Anglo American alone consumed 201M m3 in 2013, and this is already mitigated by recycling and reusing around 70 per cent of the water required. However, most operations are located in water-stressed areas making water conservation even more important. Water scarcity can pose a substantial threat to resources, communities and business. Anglo American is acutely aware of this risk and has introduced industry-leading water and energy management programmes to minimise the environmental impact of what we do.


In 2010 Anglo American established a 10-year Group Water Strategy with requirements to have site water action plans and targets to deliver a 14 percent reduction in water usage by 2020. The company has achieved a 15 percent reduction and now expects to exceed 20 percent of savings by 2020. The proactive approach to water management has so far allowed savings of 35 million cubic meters of water.

A large company, such as Anglo American, with a clear objective and commitment, can make a big difference to its stakeholders and their livelihoods. It can have an even greater impact by working in partnership with governments, other business, NGOs and local communities.

In Chile, Anglo American has built a US $100m desalination plant to use seawater for activities rather than competing for groundwater that is also used for agriculture. This provides water security for operations and for local farmers situated in the same areas. Anglo American is investing in projects intended to enable us to run water-neutral mines by 2030. This is a major commitment. Providing infrastructure that delivers water and energy is hugely expensive, needs maintenance and long-term commitment from all participants. Companies can take a lead, but cannot do it alone.

The alternative is not worth contemplating, that without water and energy, companies – like communities – can wither and die.