Skip to Main Content
(Press Enter)

Water Stewardship

Designing for the Environment

Water is a scarce resource that we must manage efficiently, especially in water-stressed areas. While GM’s operations are not overly water-intensive, we do use water in the vehicle manufacturing process and make it available for the people in our facilities.

We are committed to responsibly using water while taking actions that preserve water quality and support conservation across our operations, in our supply chain and in the communities in which we operate. Our commitment to water stewardship has been recognized by being named to CDP's 2020 Water A List, the third time we have earned this recognition.

GM plans to reduce the water intensity of our operations by 35% by 2035, compared to a 2010 baseline. This new target builds on progress over the past decade that saw our water intensity decrease from 4.77 to 3.97 cubic meters per vehicle.

We also have signed the CEO Water Mandate—a UN Global Compact Initiative—joining other global business leaders to address key challenges around water security and further aligning to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Moving forward, we will map our water progress and achievements against the mandate's six core commitment areas: Direct Operations; Supply Chain and Watershed Management; Collective Action; Public Policy; Community Engagement and Transparency.

There are important interconnections between GM’s water goals, energy goals and overarching vision of a zero-emissions future. Electricity generation from renewable resources such as wind and solar requires almost no water, according to the Energy Information Administration. As a result, making progress in one area can bring benefits in others.

Water usage is managed on a local basis, with each facility working toward its own targets for year-over-year improvement. Innovative approaches have allowed facilities to continue production without disruptions, even in water-stressed areas. For example, our Joinville plant in Brazil has upgraded its wastewater treatment system, increasing its reverse osmosis capacity with a new configuration of filters and tanks to allow for more wastewater reuse. The plant also installed piping to allow it to better harvest and reuse stormwater.

Within our supply chain, we typically focus on areas with the greatest water impact, such as our paint operations. We also evaluate water usage at the vehicle component level. Some of the parts that have the highest life cycle water impacts are frame assemblies, steel parts, carpets, seats, engine blocks, heads, tires and wheels. GM is working closely with suppliers to understand their water use and help them unlock opportunities for improvement.

Local facility knowledge provides information on water supply impacts for current operations, and we use the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct tools that map water risks such as floods, droughts and stress, using open-source, peer-reviewed data for future forecasting. We mitigate risks in current operations with either alternate supply or water reuse, working with local utilities. GM engages with over 300 suppliers through CDP Water Security Supply Chain and other organizations like AIAG.

We also engage employees at our manufacturing facilities through water treasure hunts, focused activities where groups come together to seek out new ways to reduce our consumption. A recent water treasure hunt in South Korea engaged more than 20 employees and led to water use reduction opportunities equal to almost 100 Olympic swimming pools.

Water Intensity
(Cubic Meters/Vehicle)

Due to a 27% reduction in vehicle production volume in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, GM reduced water intensity by only 13% in 2020 compared to 2010. There is a fixed water component for plant operations even during shutdown. With conservation and efficiency projects we were able to reduce absolute water use by 23% in 2020 from 2010.

Total Water Withdrawal From All
Areas, by Source
(Percent)

Water from third parties or Municipal systems provides
90% of use in our operations.

Conserving Water, Protecting Life

In the forests of South America, conserving watersheds means protecting habitat for thousands of species and safeguarding ecosystems that act as carbon sinks. GM has established partnerships with environmental organizations helping protect land in Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia. In Ecuador, GM partners with the Fondo de Agua water trust on the eastern Andean mountain range, helping to protect nearly 2,200 acres of highland plateau that provides water for the city of Quito. Protecting land through this partnership allows us to offset our Ecuador plant’s water and carbon footprints. In Colombia, a partnership to restore native forest habitat surrounding Bogotá contributes to watershed conservation and habitat protection for 15 endangered bird species.

Water Intensity
(Cubic Meters/Vehicle)
2010 Baseline 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
4.77 4.13 4.21 4.23 4.26 4.17
Total Water Withdrawal From All
Areas, by Source
(Percent)
25,554 Megaliters
Municipal 90%
Well Water 10%