BASF Report 2023

Material Topics in Focus: Water

At our Verbund site in Kuantan, Malaysia, we are aiming to reduce our demand for water by 50% by 2030 compared with 2022. In the site-specific initiative to save and recycle water, we are focusing on increasing the reuse of wastewater, condensate and collected rainwater.

Water is of fundamental importance in chemical production. It is used as a coolant, solvent and cleaning agent, and to make our products. Waterways are used to transport goods. At the same time, water is a scarce commodity in an increasing number of regions. That is why we promote the responsible use of this resource with sustainable water management.


Strategy and governance

As a manufacturing company, we need water for production. In order to use water as efficiently as possible, we are building on intelligent cooling water systems, increased reuse and multimodal transportation concepts with combined transportation methods. A lack of water presents a risk for us. Our demand for water, the volume of wastewater we generate and the associated emissions to water can have an impact on the environment. We systematically record the short and long-term opportunities and risks that arise from water as part of our general opportunity and risk management.

Our 2030 target

Introduction of sustainable water management at our production sites in water stress areas and at our Verbund sites

The responsible use of water as a resource is a core element of our Responsible Care Management System and an important part of our commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is also reflected in our position paper on water protection, which we published in 2021.

Our global standards and provisions for water are defined in Group-wide requirements. Among other things, these stipulate that water protection concepts must be implemented at all production sites. The requirements also cover aspects such as process and transportation safety in order to prevent production and transportation-related product spillages into water bodies as far as possible. Our sites and Group companies are responsible for implementing and complying with internal and legal requirements. This is regularly audited by the Environmental Protection, Health, Safety and Quality (EHSQ) unit in the Corporate Center. BASF’s global network of experts shares information, insights and best practices around the responsible use of water on an ongoing basis.

Water poses a particular challenge in the context of climate change.

Dr. Andrea Stögbauer
Corporate Environmental Protection, Energy and Remediation

Introducing and implementing sustainable water management has been a cornerstone of our strategy for many years now. Our focus here is on our Verbund sites and on production sites in water stress areas.1 We look at water availability, water quality and the impact of our water use on the environment and other users. For this, we use the standard of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) as guidance. AWS is a global multistakeholder organization that promotes the responsible use of water, which we are a member of.

In the wake of advancing climate change, the resulting water shortages and extreme weather events, climate resilience measures are becoming increasingly important. We have established early-warning systems for the Ludwigshafen site in Germany in order to secure our supply of raw materials and transportation via water and developed a special type of ship for extremely low water levels. In 2023, we were able to inaugurate a tanker and a ship for transporting specialty chemicals, which are optimized for low water levels and are for the exclusive use of BASF. Further measures at our sites are aimed at reducing our demand for water, for example, through recycling and intelligent cooling water systems.

1 We define water stress areas as regions in which more than 40% of available water is used by industry, households and agriculture. Our definition is based on the Water Risk Atlas (Aqueduct 3.0) published by the World Resources Institute. For more information, see

Engagement in the value chain

We advocate the responsible use of water as a resource along the entire value chain. We audit supplier compliance with environmental standards in our regular supplier assessments. Where improvement is necessary, we support suppliers in developing and implementing appropriate measures, such as the correct handling of wastewater. In addition, we are involved in a wide range of initiatives to promote sustainability in the supply chain. For example, efficient water use is a core part of the Pragati project to improve sustainability in castor bean farming.

We work with numerous partners along the value chain and from civil society to protect water as a resource. In addition to the Alliance for Water Stewardship, we are involved in networks such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and Operation Clean Sweep® to prevent waste from plastic production from entering water bodies.

We offer our customers solutions that help purify water and use it more efficiently and minimize pollution. These include high-performance plastics to produce ultrafiltration membranes, intermediates to produce flocculants for water treatment, or seeds with higher drought and heat tolerance.

With our sustainable water management, we cover around 90% of BASF’s water abstraction.

Dr. Andrea Stögbauer

We report transparently and comprehensively on how we use water. For instance, in 2023, we again participated in the program established by the nonprofit organization CDP for reporting on data relevant to climate protection, on the topic of water. BASF again achieved leadership status with an A– rating in the final assessment. CDP evaluates how transparently companies report on their water management activities and how they reduce risks such as water scarcity. The assessment also considers the extent to which product developments can also contribute to sustainable water management at the customers of the evaluated companies.

Global target and measures

Our goal is to introduce sustainable water management at our Verbund sites and at all production sites in water stress areas by 2030, covering around 90% of BASF’s total water abstraction. We achieved 70% of our target in 2023 (2022: 62%).2 Sustainable water management was introduced at seven further sites in 2023 (2022: seven sites).

As part of sustainable water management, our sites regularly assess the water situation in the catchment area. This raises awareness of potential risks and impacts such as water scarcity for the population. Based on the assessments conducted until the end of 2023, we did not identify a significant impact on water availability and quality resulting from our activities at any site.

Another important part of our sustainable water management is the continuous analysis and implementation of measures for improvement. For example, process optimizations such as the use of modified valves or the recycling of low-temperature cooling water at the General Lagos site in Argentina are leading to water savings of 15%. At our Verbund site in Freeport, Texas, we commissioned a membrane bioreactor for treating wastewater in 2023, which improved the capacity and performance of the wastewater treatment plant. In the future, the treated wastewater is to be recycled, thereby reducing the need for freshwater. Depending on the local situation, we also implement measures together with other stakeholders. One example is the Lake Winnipeg Basin project in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where we are working with project partners to analyze the benefits of water management for the environment, farmers and other stakeholders.

2 Our water target also continues to take into account the sites that we identified as water stress sites in accordance with Pfister et al. (2009) prior to 2019.

Water balance

Our water abstraction totaled 1,518 million cubic meters in 2023 (2022: 1,590 million cubic meters). This demand was covered for the most part by freshwater such as rivers and lakes (88% of total water abstraction). At some sites, we use alternative sources such as treated municipal wastewater, brackish water or seawater. A small part of the water we use reaches our sites as part of raw materials and steam, or is released in our production processes. We abstract most of the water we need for cooling and production ourselves. In 2023, 5% of our total water demand was covered by third parties (2022: 5%).

Water use in 2023 totaled 6,722 million cubic meters (2022: 6,917 million cubic meters). Put in relation to total water abstraction, this means that we use every liter we abstract around four times, or cover 79% of our water demand with reuse. We predominantly use water for cooling purposes (88% of total water abstraction), after which we discharge it back to our supply sources with no product contact. We reduce our water abstraction for cooling purposes mainly by using recooling plants. Around 12% of our total water abstraction is used in production plants, for example, for extraction or dissolution processes or for cleaning. Here, too, we reduce our demand for water by reusing wastewater. Most of the water used for production purposes is discharged back to water bodies after being treated in our own or third-party wastewater treatment plants.

The BASF Group’s water consumption describes the amount of water that is not discharged back into a water body, meaning that it is no longer available to other users. Consumption is mainly attributable to the evaporation of water in recirculating cooling systems. A smaller amount is from the water contained in our products. Water consumption in 2023 amounted to around 67 million cubic meters (2022: 69 million cubic meters).

In 2023, around 25% of our production sites were located in water stress areas (2022: 25%). These sites accounted for 1% of BASF’s total water abstraction (2022: 1%3). In water stress areas, we mainly source water from third parties (79%) and largely cover our demand with freshwater. Water consumption in water stress areas accounted for 15% of BASF’s total water consumption in 2023 (2022: 17%) and was primarily attributable to evaporation in cooling processes. Wastewater in water stress areas accounted for less than 1% of BASF’s total wastewater. The share of wastewater from cooling processes in water stress areas is lower than for the BASF Group as a whole. Cooling water is rarely used for once-through cooling here. Instead, it is generally recirculated to reduce water demand. Production wastewater in water stress areas is primarily treated at third-party facilities.

The supply, treatment, transportation and recooling of water is often associated with a high 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 operations and the environment.

3 Aqueduct 3.0 was used to identify sites in water stress areas to determine pro rata water abstraction and water consumption.

Water balance in the BASF Group 2023

Million cubic meters per year

water usagewater usage

Abstraction / supply

The difference between water abstraction and discharge is due to water consumption and limited measurement accuracy in water discharge.

Water used in cooling processes

Water used in production

Total from production processes, sanitary facilities, rinsing and cleaning in production


The difference between water abstraction and discharge is due to water consumption and limited measurement accuracy in water discharge.


The difference between water abstraction and discharge is due to water consumption and limited measurement accuracy in water discharge.

Emissions to water

Our wastewater is subject to strict controls and we carefully assess the impact of wastewater discharge in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations. Both internal audits and the responsible local authorities regularly assess whether the analyses and safety precautions at our sites comply with internal and legal requirements. A total of 1,352 million cubic meters of water were discharged from BASF production sites in 2023 (2022: 1,400 million cubic meters). Including 148 million cubic meters of wastewater from production. Emissions of nitrogen to water amounted to 2,100 metric tons in 2023 (2022: 2,400 metric tons4). Around 8,800 metric tons of organic substances were emitted in wastewater (2022: 10,600 metric tons). Our wastewater contained 13 metric tons of heavy metals (2022: 15 metric tons4). Phosphorus emissions amounted to 220 metric tons (2022: 230 metric tons4).

Our approach is to reduce wastewater volumes and contaminant loads at the source in our production processes and to reuse wastewater and material flows internally as far as possible. To treat wastewater, we use both central measures in wastewater treatment plants and the selective pretreatment of individual wastewater streams before these are sent to the wastewater treatment plant. We use different methods depending on the type and degree of contamination – including biological processes, chemical oxidation, membrane technologies, precipitation or adsorption. In order to avoid unanticipated emissions and the pollution of surface water or groundwater, we have water protection concepts for our production sites in place. This is mandatory for all production sites as part of our Responsible Care Management System. 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.

4 The comparative figure for 2022 has been adjusted to reflect updated data.

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Value chain
A value chain describes the successive steps in a production process: from raw materials through various intermediate steps, such as transportation and production, to the finished product.

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