Water is of fundamental importance in chemical production. It is used as a coolant, solvent and cleaning agent, as well as to make our products. We are committed to its responsible use in our production sites’ water catchment areas, and along the entire value chain. We have set ourselves a global goal for sustainable water management.

The graphic depicts the different stations along the value chain. The topics in this chapter address the station shown in dark green. (here: Production, Customers) (graphic)


  • BASF products contribute to sustainable water management

We aim to use water as sparingly as possible and further reduce emissions to water. To do so, we have set out a Group directive with globally applicable standards. We are exploring measures for implementing sustainable water management, especially at production sites in water stress areas. One of our aims here is to identify savings potential in order to use as little water as possible, particularly in water stress areas. We consider this topic from all aspects, including societal implications.

We offer our customers solutions that help purify water, use it more efficiently and reduce pollution. Seawater desalination plants make an important contribution to supplying the world’s population with water. The Middle East’s dry climate, for example, makes the region particularly dependent on this technology. The largest desalination plant in the United Arab Emirates is located in Jebel Ali. BASF supplies it with more than 3,000 metric tons of Sokalan® PM 15l per year; this product prevents the buildup of deposits, enabling the plant to generate up to 2 million cubic meters of desalinated water each day.

In order to ensure transparency in our reporting on water, we once again took part in CDP reporting in 2015 and received a very good score. According to CDP, this was particularly because of our implementing a range of best-practice measures in water management, as well as our risk minimization – both in our production and beyond it.

Water stress areas around the world

Water stress areas around the world (map)

Source: Pfister et. al., 2009

Global goal

  • Goals achieved for reducing emissions
  • Goal expanded for sustainable water management

We have already achieved our 2020 goal of decreasing emissions to water of organic substances and nitrogen by 80% and of heavy metals by 60% compared with baseline 2002. In 2015, we reached 28.2% (2014: 26.3%) of our goal to halve the withdrawal of drinking water for production purposes from 2010 to 2020. We integrated this target into our goal for sustainable water management in 2015. We are analyzing water management practices at relevant production sites with respect to sustainability criteria. Our aim to establish sustainable water management at all sites in water stress areas was expanded in 2015: We now also want to introduce sustainable water management at all Verbund sites by 2025. This will cover 92% of BASF’s entire water abstraction. We achieved 36.2% of this goal in 2015, and are pursuing it through the application of the European Water Stewardship (EWS) standard. After introducing the standard at our European sites in 2013, we furthered its implementation in China and North and South America in 2015. This once again earned gold-level certification in 2015 for our production site in Tarragona, Spain, after an external audit.

Around 22% of our production sites were located in water stress areas in 2015, and around 1% of BASF’s total water supply was abstracted from these areas.

Water in the BASF Group 2015 (million cubic meters per year)

Water in the BASF Group 2015 (pie chart)

1 The difference between the volume of water drawn and the volume discharged is primarily attributable to evaporation losses during closed-circuit cooling.

2 Total from production processes, graywater, rinsing and cleaning in production

2025 Goal


Introduction of sustainable water management at all production sites in water stress areas and at all Verbund sites
BASF operations excl. Oil & Gas

Further reduction of emissions

  • Reduction of emissions to water achieved

A total of around 207 million cubic meters of wastewater were discharged from BASF production sites in 2015 (2014: 194 million cubic meters). Emissions of nitrogen to water amounted to 3,000 metric tons (2014: 3,200 metric tons). We were able to make this improvement by optimizing processes and exchanging products, for example. Around 17,300 metric tons of organic substances were emitted in wastewater (2014: 18,700 metric tons). Our wastewater contained 25 metric tons of heavy metals (2014: 21.5 metric tons). Phosphorus emissions amounted to 460 metric tons (2014: 341 metric tons).

Our wastewater is treated through different methods depending on the type and degree of contamination – including biological processes, oxidation, membrane technologies, precipitation or adsorption.

In order to prevent unanticipated emissions and the pollution of surface or groundwater, we create water protection strategies for our production sites. This is mandatory for all production plants as part of the Responsible Care initiative. The wastewater protection plans involve evaluating wastewater in terms of risk and drawing up suitable monitoring approaches. We use audits to check that these measures are being implemented and complied with.

Water use

  • Using water responsibly

We recirculate water as much as is feasible in order to withdraw less from supply sources. Our larger sites have recooling plants that allow water to be reused several times and that reduce the temperature of used cooling water before it is discharged back into a body of water.

The supply, treatment, transportation and recooling of water is associated with a high energy demand. We employ various means in our efforts to keep this as low as possible. We are constantly working to optimize our energy consumption and the amount of water we use, and to adapt to the needs of our business and the environment.