Today as many as 2.8 billion people worldwide still live in areas affected by severe water stress. To raise public awareness on the need for a sustainable and careful use of this precious resource, in 1992 the United Nations launched the “World Water Day”, an annual event celebrated on March 22.
Since then, Enel has set specific goals to reduce water consumption in all production processes. 'The Group – explained Carlo Ferrara, Head of Environmental Policies – has set an important objective for 2020: reduction of the specific consumption of water by 10 percent compared to 2010. The company has proven to be on the right track to achieve this goal: in 2014, water consumption was reduced by 32 percent compared to 1990 – a solid result that follows along the path toward the reduction and efficient use of water resources, which is also reflected in the type of water resources that are used. Only 5 percent of the hydropower that is generated comes from the use of freshwater from water-stressed areas'. Ferrara also highlighted the fact that while the energy production system uses large amounts of water, it is also able to return 99 percent of the water to the environment, often with better organoleptic qualities.
'Sustainability in energy generation plants, added Sergio Adami Global Generation's Head of Hydro, implies the use of industrial processes that take into account the needs of the surrounding environment: from water-related risks to urbanization and rivers, which are actual live ecosystems, and thus the need to maintain a minimum flow in order to protect the landscape, as well as the quality of air and water.'
The Group constantly monitors all of its production sites, particularly those that are located in areas with a high risk of water scarcity, in order to manage the resource in the most efficient way possible and ensure its protection, as well as a sustainable relationship with the territory.
To achieve these objectives, Enel has tested innovative technologies, such as “Zero Liquid Discharge”, in several power plants in Italy and Latin America. This technology reuses desulphurised water through a crystallisation process, thereby recycling 100 percent of the waste water that is produced and reducing the consumption of so-called “industrial” water by 40 percent. The system was recognized as a “best practice” process in coal mines by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).
Other examples of Enel's initiatives to protect the environment and water resources are the dams that have been built in Italy and in other countries, such as Spain and Russia, where the Group is developing projects that leverage the best technologies related to the reduction of water consumption.
Furthermore, Enel has been active in the “Water Disclosure Project” since 2013, thereby extending to the Group an initiative promoted by the Spanish subsidiary Endesa. The year 2013 saw the company as the first utility to participate in the “Aqua Gauge” questionnaire, promoted by the US network of investors Ceres. The project is a roadmap that provides investors with information on water-risk management on behalf of businesses. The framework is based on four main assessment categories: measurement, management, stakeholder engagement and disclosure of information.