Water and Wastewater

Water issues continue to grow in visibility and importance worldwide, and many consider access to clean water to be a basic human right. Although these concerns are global, addressing water issues requires action at a local or regional level. Due to the location-specific nature of water issues, companies first must understand water risks associated with individual operations before they can take appropriate and meaningful action.

Water is integral to many of Baxter’s products and manufacturing processes, so water conservation and reuse are key focus areas for the company. Baxter works to better understand the impacts of its water use across the value chain, and implements conservation and efficiency projects at its manufacturing facilities to improve performance.

Baxter is committed to reducing water consumption by 35% indexed to revenue by 2015, compared with 2005. The company also has committed to implement two projects by 2015 to help protect vulnerable watersheds and provide communities with enhanced access to clean water.

Water consumption, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions are interrelated, including within Baxter’s manufacturing operations. As water quality decreases, Baxter will need to use additional energy and water for the production of highly purified water used in manufacturing.

Water Usage

Baxter closely manages how it obtains, uses, treats, re-circulates and discharges water. In 2013, the company obtained approximately 40% of its water from on-site wells and the remainder from municipal water distribution systems.

During 2013, Baxter used approximately 14.8 million cubic meters1 of water, roughly equivalent to filling 16 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day. This equaled 1% less water than in 2005 in absolute terms and 34% less indexed to revenue. Baxter used about 5% more water in 2013 than in 2012, largely due to production growth in the Asia Pacific region, along with changes in manufacturing practices and product development activities at numerous Baxter facilities globally. Although the company is increasing focus on water and energy reduction projects to help meet its 2015 goal, Baxter anticipates that continued business growth and manufacturing process changes during the next several years will present a challenge to future water-reduction efforts.

Water Usage

Baxter uses water in three main ways:

  • Process-related operations include cooling towers, chillers, steam boilers, sterilizers and water purification (80% of total);
  • Purified water in the company’s solution products (15% of total); and
  • Other uses such as in bathrooms, cafeterias and landscaping (5% of total).

Water Conservation

Facilities with water-intensive operations develop site-specific water efficiency initiatives and metrics. Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Facilities Engineering Services personnel review performance to identify best practices for application at other locations.

Baxter considers several factors to identify water usage reduction opportunities and possible water conservation projects at sites, including total water used, water usage efficiency, and water cost and availability. Due to the strong link between energy usage and water processing, optimizing water systems remains a key focus of the company’s facility energy assessments. Additionally, Baxter integrates Lean manufacturing principles and tools such as value stream mapping2 with water management to help facilities identify areas for additional conservation.

During 2013, Baxter implemented water recovery and reuse projects at several facilities:

  • China - Product sterilization processes are often water- and energy-intensive. Baxter’s Tianjin facility implemented a system to recover heated water from the sterilization process and reuse it in the site’s boilers. This project decreased water consumption by 6,000 m3 on an annualized basis while also saving energy.
  • Ireland - Baxter’s facility in Castlebar implemented several water conservation projects such as improving use of water meters in water-intensive operations, optimizing water used during sanitization processes, and reducing water used for toilets. These efforts reduced water consumption by approximately 18,500 m3 annually.
  • Italy - Baxter’s facility in Grosotto completed projects to reuse water from the water purification process and to optimize sterilization activities for one of its main product lines. These initiatives reduced water consumption by 22,500 m3 annually.
  • United States - Baxter’s manufacturing facility in Round Lake, Illinois, developed software to monitor water usage and installed alarms to alert facility personnel if valves remain open longer than intended. The facility also completed projects to recover water from utility and manufacturing processes for reuse in boilers and cooling towers. Combined, these projects reduced water usage by 7,600 m3 annually.

Water-Stressed Locations

Water issues vary significantly by location. Baxter used the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Global Water Tool in 2012 to evaluate the availability of renewable water resources at Baxter’s 51 largest water-consuming locations, which represent more than 96% of the company’s total water use. Twelve of those sites are located in water-scarce areas, 11 in water-stressed areas and 28 in water-sufficient areas (see second note on graph below).

Water usage in water-scarce and water-stressed areas increased approximately 7% in absolute terms and saw virtually no change when indexed to production in 2013 compared with 2012. Water consumption increased at these locations primarily due to growth in production to meet local market demands and elevated water use in certain processes that support manufacturing.

Water Usage by Availability

Baxter has established partnerships with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to implement projects to help protect vulnerable watersheds and provide communities with enhanced access to clean water and sanitation.

Throughout 2013, Baxter continued working with Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation (PCWS) to improve the water, sanitation and hygiene conditions for the nearly 1,500 inhabitants of Sitio Silangan, a community within walking distance of the company's manufacturing facility in Canlubang, Philippines, which is located in a water-scarce region. PCWS builds the capabilities of communities, households, NGOs and other groups to address water, sanitation and hygiene challenges throughout the country. Efforts in 2013 focused on strengthening the skills and knowledge that local residents need to manage the community’s water supply and sanitation systems sustainably. Through the end of 2013, community residents, with PCWS, have built four biogas digester septic tanks, two iron removal filters, two rainwater harvesting tanks, and 50 biosand filters, with plans to construct five more rainwater harvesting tanks, five biogas digesters, 10 biosand filters, and five iron removal filters in 2014. The local community also is evaluating the safe capture of methane gas from the biogas digesters for use as cooking fuel.

In 2013, Baxter also entered into a partnership with Sarar Transformación SC to implement a community water project near the company’s facility in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The project's goals are to improve water and sanitary conditions at local schools in the surrounding water-stressed area of Tepoztlán, Mexico; to educate the community on sustainable water use; and to ensure ongoing maintenance of the installed improvements. Nearly 1,000 residents of the Tepoztlán area are expected to benefit from this project. A project kickoff meeting was held in 2013 to plan for the implementation of the project in 2014.


Wastewater discharged from Baxter's production operations represents one of the company's most significant environmental compliance risks. In 2013, all of Baxter’s self-reported environmental incidents were exceedances of permitted wastewater discharge limits, and 88% of those were from one European manufacturing location. Exceedances at this location were related to biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), pH, chloride, sulphate, and temperature, though no harm to the environment resulted from these exceedances. Both pH and temperature are monitored continuously, and each exceedance, no matter how minor, constitutes a self-reported incident.

To address these items, Baxter applied internal and external legal and engineering resources to improve compliance at this facility. The site worked with local regulatory agencies, external wastewater experts, and the private third-party operator of the municipal wastewater treatment plant to develop structural improvements to expand the treatment capacity of the Baxter-dedicated wastewater pre-treatment system. At the same time, Baxter worked continuously to mitigate the compliance risk by improving internal operational practices and engaging the entire facility staff and management. This included changing how the facility manages routine wastewater discharges to reduce the loading on the pretreatment system, and diverting large volumes of cleaning solution from the wastewater treatment plant to an authorized offsite location. In early 2014, the company successfully completed wastewater pretreatment infrastructure upgrades. These improvements address Baxter’s current and expected future manufacturing needs.

To address existing wastewater compliance issues globally and to anticipate potential future ones, Baxter has adopted a more aggressive approach to wastewater compliance and changed how it evaluates and mitigates wastewater risk. Learning from recent wastewater compliance issues, the company has implemented a systematic wastewater risk management program that proactively identifies emerging issues. This initiative involves a holistic review of major manufacturing locations that includes the following:

  • Evaluate how facility change management processes are used to assess possible impacts to wastewater generation and compliance;
  • Review wastewater compliance history to identify possible trends or areas of concern;
  • Verify the effectiveness of procedures used to monitor compliance with wastewater permit conditions and methods used to investigate and remedy causes of non-compliant wastewater discharges;
  • Use five-year production forecasts to compare wastewater treatment capacity and capabilities with anticipated production changes; and
  • Gauge employee awareness of wastewater operations and roles in ensuring compliance.

In addition to this program, the EHS Audit group has performed targeted wastewater assessments since 2011. These reinforce the importance of understanding the effects of wastewater discharges on compliance, and on proper management of wastewater treatment.

Baxter-Operated Wastewater Treatment Systems

Twelve of Baxter’s manufacturing operations treat wastewater on-site and either discharge to a waterway or operate as zero-discharge facilities. These facilities typically do not have access to regional or municipal wastewater-treatment systems. For example, Baxter’s facilities in Alathur and Waluj, India, reuse all treated wastewater on-site for landscaping and irrigation or, after further treatment by reverse osmosis, for cooling towers. In 2013, these 12 facilities treated more than 4.7 million cubic meters of wastewater, nearly 32% of Baxter's total water consumption.

The combined treated effluent from the 10 facilities that discharge to a waterway have average concentration levels of wastewater pollutants (see table) that are generally regarded as indicators of adequately treated wastewater and are well below typical regulatory discharge limits.

Wastewater Pollutants*
2005 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Typical Acceptable Discharge Level (mg/L)
BOD5** Metric Tons 26 31 41 24 36 33
mg/L 6 8 10 5 8 7 20
COD** Metric Tons 111 102 106 98 120 99
mg/L 26 27 27 22 28 21 60
TSS** Metric Tons 45 31 34 49 34 38
mg/L 11 8 9 11 8 8 20
4,340,000 3,777,000 3,948,000 4,404,000 4,348,000 4,656,000
* Estimated total water pollutant levels for treated wastewater discharged directly into waterways. Data do not include two facilities that operate zero-discharge systems in accordance with local regulatory requirements.
** When actual performance data were not available, estimates are based on performance at similar facilities or on other measured performance indicators.

Wastewater and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Baxter takes seriously concerns about active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) entering the public water supply. The company primarily produces solutions whose principal ingredients include water, salts and simple sugars. However, Baxter purchases and uses some solution therapies and products for injection that include APIs.

The company properly manages the APIs that it uses to help ensure they are not released into the environment during manufacturing. Baxter has developed proprietary processes to remove, destroy or deactivate some compounds though not required to do so by law. All other compounds that cannot be managed this way or through traditional wastewater systems are destroyed by incineration or other environmentally responsible means.

Complementing these global processes, each Baxter facility determines the most effective and environmentally responsible method of protecting the public water supply and public health in accordance with company policies and local regulations. For example, Baxter’s major research and development facility in Round Lake, Illinois, United States, has an ongoing program launched in 1989 to evaluate its solution products, including those containing APIs, for their removal in wastewater treatment systems. The company shares this information with Baxter facilities around the world.

1 One cubic meter equals 1,000 liters or 264 gallons.
2 Water value stream mapping is an interactive, Lean manufacturing tool that helps facilities better understand the quantity and quality of water used in their processes and identify opportunities for reduction or reuse.

Sustainability Priority Addressed on this Page

Baxter Will Drive Reductions in its Natural Resource Use