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 along the entire value chain and especially in our production sites’ water catchment areas. 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 blue. (here: BASF, Customers) (graphic)


  • Sustainable water management
  • Updated water goal from 2019 onward

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 introducing sustainable water management at all relevant production sites. These include our major Verbund sites as well as the sites in water stress areas. Under our previous definition, these were regions in which more than 60% of available water is used by industry, household and agriculture. We consider the quantitative, qualitative and social aspects of water use. We want to identify where we can improve at our sites, and use as little water as possible, especially in water stress areas.

From 2019 onward, we will use an expanded definition of water stress areas: Regions in which more than 40% of available water is used by industry, household and agriculture in accordance with the new Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standard. We will also report on the water consumption of the BASF Group and water consumption in water stress areas from 2019 onward.

In order to ensure transparency in our reporting on water, we once again took part in CDP reporting in 2018. BASF achieved a rating of “A–” in 2018 and thus Leadership status for sustainable water management. CDP’s evaluation of sustainable water management includes how transparently companies report on their water management activities and what they do to reduce risks, such as water scarcity. CDP also assesses the extent to which product developments – even at the customers of the companies under evaluation – can contribute to sustainable water management.

We offer our customers solutions that help purify water and use it more efficiently while minimizing pollution.

Water stress areas around the world
Water stress areas around the world (map)

Source: Pfister et al., 2009, and Aqueduct, World Resources Institute, 2015

Global goal and measures

Our previous goal was to introduce sustainable water management at all sites in water stress areas and at our Verbund sites by 2025, covering 93% of BASF’s total water abstraction. We achieved 50.0% of this goal in 2018 (2017: 45.2%). In 2018, BASF introduced sustainable water management at five sites.

In 2018, around 23% of our production sites were located in water stress areas. Around 1% of BASF’s total water supply was abstracted from these sites.

We pursue our goal by applying the European Water Stewardship standard, which rests on four principles: sustainable water abstraction, maintaining good water quality, preserving conservation areas, and ensuring continuous improvement processes.

We will pursue an updated goal from 2019 onward. By 2030, we want to introduce sustainable water management at all sites in water stress areas and at our Verbund sites according to our expanded definition. This almost doubles the number of sites.

Water use

  • Using water responsibly

Our water usage totaled 1,745 million cubic meters in 2018. This demand was covered for the most part by surface water, such as rivers and lakes. At some sites, we use alternative sources such as treated municipal wastewater, brackish water or seawater.

We predominantly use water for cooling purposes (87%), after which we recirculate it back to our supply sources. We reduce our water use by recirculating as much water as possible. To do this, we use recooling plants that allow water to be reused several times.

The supply, treatment, transportation and recooling of water is associated with a considerable energy demand. 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.

Water in the BASF Group 2018

Million cubic meters per year

Water in the BASF Group 2018 (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

Emissions to water

  • Slight decrease in emissions to water

A total of 1,614 million cubic meters of water were discharged from BASF production sites in 2018, including 188 million cubic meters of treated wastewater from production. Emissions of nitrogen to water amounted to 3,100 metric tons (2017: 2,800 metric tons). Around 12,400 metric tons of organic substances were emitted in wastewater (2017: 13,200 metric tons1). Our wastewater contained 23 metric tons of heavy metals (2017: 25 metric tons). Phosphorus emissions amounted to 220 metric tons (2017: 420 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 avoid 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.

1 The 2017 figure has been adjusted due to updated data.