Water use and water quality are priorities at JBS USA and critical pillars in our sustainability program. We recognize that water scarcity is a major global issue and is critical to securing a consistent, high-quality global food supply. We embrace our responsibility to reduce water use and strive to improve our water-stewardship by monitoring its use at each JBS USA facility and prioritizing usage reductions, while preserving our high standards for food safety and sanitary conditions. We are also aware that some JBS USA facilities are located in water-stressed areas and require more strategic focus to ensure proper management. Water quality is an important priority for us as well, and we continuously work to ensure that all wastewater we discharge meets or exceeds all regulatory and internal standards.
At JBS USA, water stewardship is crucial to our long-term viability. Companywide, our approach to water stewardship is defined at the corporate level, but goals and targets are set by each facility to ensure ownership and accountability. We work closely and collaboratively with federal, state and local municipalities to address complex issues and jointly develop solutions. Finally, every facility invests capital annually to make sure it stays in alignment with and committed to our Environmental Policy while appropriately addressing local challenges.
Water plays an important role in producing safe food. This necessitates its everyday use so we are meeting the highest food safety standards. To ensure that our water conservation efforts do not interfere with food safety, we work cross-functionally with our environmental, engineering, operations and food quality and safety teams when designing and implementing these strategies.
Each of our production and further processing facilities has a tailored wastewater treatment program that meets its individual discharge permit requirements. These site-specific initiatives have helped reduce our total discharged water volume and addressed noncompliance issues. All of our feedlots and live hog operations are run in accordance with federally mandated, nutrient-management plans or an equivalent program. Manure from our feedlots and live hog operations plays an important role in conservation as a soil amendment and fertilizer. It is composted and used by local farmers to enhance soil quality and as a sustainable alternative to synthetic fertilizers.
*Goals set based on 2013, 2014, 2015 average baselines for our U.S. and Canadian facilities
We track both total water use and water intensity (water use per pound of finished product, including by-products) to consistently identify opportunities for improvements, irrespective of changes in production. In 2020, we used approximately 24 billion gallons of water in our JBS USA facilities, drawing 70% of this water from public municipalities, 26% from groundwater sources and 4% from surface water, including streams. We will work to continually optimize water use and identify opportunities to reduce water use intensity without compromising food safety, animal welfare or environmental compliance.
As a global company, our water use intensity unfortunately increased by 1% from 2019 to 2020 due to increased focus on sanitation during the COVID-19 global pandemic. For our participating business units in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, water use intensity decreased 10% since 2015, meeting our 2020 reduction goal.
Throughout 2020, all of our facilities discharged wastewater according to applicable wastewater treatment permits. We maintain and, where needed, improve facilities and wastewater programs to be in compliance with permits, laws and regulations. Discharged water is measured for its overall quality at each facility to ensure that it meets permitting requirements. The majority, 59%, of discharged water is sent to city-owned treatment centers, while 29% is discharged to non-municipalities, and 12% is used as land irrigation.
|Total Water Use
|Water Use Intensity
(Gallons Per lb. of Finished Product)
JBS USA has conducted a comprehensive water risk assessment at each facility, inclusive of quantity (baseline water stress, inter-annual variability, seasonal variability, flood occurrence, drought severity, upstream storage and groundwater storage), quality (return flow ratio and upstream protected land) and regulatory and reputational risk (media coverage, access to water and threatened amphibians). The assessment identifies areas with higher exposure to aforementioned water-related risks. As indicated in the graphic below, the majority of our facilities are low-to-medium or medium-to-high risk as defined by the World Resources Institute Aqueduct, 2014.
The water risk assessment is a critical element of our water stewardship strategy and allows us to identify and prioritize water resource projects that are locally relevant to each watershed and reduce the company’s overall water impact.