Dow Executive Provided Testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives

May 23, 2003
Is Water the 'Oil of the 21st Century'?

A combination of technology, conservation and efficient use of water can help avoid a global shortage, according to Paul Dean of The Dow Chemical Company. Dean testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and The Environment about Dow's policies to reduce, recycle and reuse water for manufacturing and how Dow is managing its water resources.

The testimony took place on Thursday, May 22, 2003. Dow was invited to offer testimony by Representative John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), chairman of the subcommittee, because of Dow's leadership in managing water at its global manufacturing sites.

Water & The Future

"We tended to think of water as inexpensive, plentiful, and clean," Dean told the subcommittee members. "But since 1940, water consumption has quadrupled and will continue to increase as the world's population grows." According to the United Nations Geo 2000 Report, four billion of the world's people are expected to have insufficient water by 2050. A Dow site in Texas faced a severe water shortage during the drought of 2000. "For us, the idea that water was cheap and plentiful was shattered. In order to ensure a long-term source of water for our plants, we would have to work within the entire basin and in ways we had never thought of before," Dean said.

Dow has since consolidated water activities under a single business unit focused on managing water rights, conveyance, treatment and use for the entire company. This water management "envelope" is part of Dow's Environmental Operations Business Unit. Dow is one of the few global manufacturing companies to treat resource management as part of a business unit. This type of thinking and approach to resource management is part of Dow's Sustainable Development triple bottom line mindset, which means "we must simultaneously excel in economic prosperity, corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship," Dean said. Sustainable Development is hard wired into everything Dow does.

Water Management Makes Business Sense The water treatment system at Dow's Terneuzen site in The Netherlands was restructured to recycle 80% of the non-salty wastewater at the site. This resulted in a 50% reduction in total wastewater discharge per pound of product at the site. Dow used advanced membrane technology to desalinate warm seawater for use as process water. Overall the project resulted in significant energy savings and contributed to the long-term availability of fresh water in the region.

In Texas, Dow found a better way to manage water as it moved from Dow's fresh water reservoirs to the manufacturing site. This change alone prevented the loss of 13,000 gallons of water per minute.

Dow is not on the sidelines when it comes to water conservation. Since 1994, Dow has reduced the amount of process wastewater generated from 3.86 pounds of wastewater to 2.85 pounds of wastewater used for each pound of product produced. While Dow's primary objective is to eliminate wastewater at the source, Dow is also focused on activities to recycle wastewater. These approaches reduce freshwater consumption and are in response to the growing need to share and better utilize water resources. "We recognize that we don't have all the answers so we are engaging in dialogue with a broad group of stakeholders across the globe to understand their challenges and learn from their experiences," Dean concluded.

To learn more about Dow's Sustainable Development efforts read the 2002 Global Public Report at

Source: The Dow Chemical Company

Image courtesy Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ).
All images courtesy of Ecosorb.