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412 million m3

Total water intake

328 million m3

Freshwater withdrawal

5,526 metric tons O2

Chemical Oxygen Demand emissions


Water management encompasses the management of water flows and water quality, from abstraction from the natural environment to water flow restitution to the same or another environment compartment.

Freshwater withdrawal (million m3/year) is the amount of incoming water from the public network (drinking water), from freshwater systems (rivers, lakes, ...) as well as from groundwater sources (aquifers).

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) is the amount of oxygen reducing substances (mainly dissolved organic matter) discharged to aqueous receivers. COD is expressed as metric tons of oxygen per year. In addition to nitrogen and phosphorus species, COD contributes to aquatic eutrophication.

Management approach

Water and wastewater are managed through the Solvay Care Management System (SCMS), and management is aligned with the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard (edition 2004), the OHSAS 18001 standard (edition 2007), and Solvay group Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) requirements.

The Group has a Company-wide water policy that includes a commitment to limiting freshwater withdrawal and consumption, and to ensuring that the quality status of the water bodies where effluents are discharged remains good, so that the impact on humans and natural biota is minimized. Solvay focuses on reducing two impacts: freshwater withdrawal and chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions.

Health, safety, environment management, and compliance

Indicators and objectives

Overview of water flows (2017)

Water intake and consumption (graphic)
  • In 2017, the Group’s total water intake decreased to 412 million m3, 81% of which was fresh-water. Compared to 2016, the freshwater contribution decreased by 5%.
  • The Group’s total water discharge amounts to 383 million m3, 64% of which discharged to freshwater receptors. 
  • Water loss by evaporation (19 million m3) takes place in Industrial Cooling Towers or basins. 
  • Recycled water accounts for around 65% of the total volume of water used in 2017, an improvement of 6 % compared to 2016.

Solvay’s objectives:



of freshwater intensity



of Chemical Oxygen Demand emissions intensity

Baseline 2015

Water intensity








Scope: Consistent with financial reporting.

Freshwater withdrawal intensity (Cubic meters per € EBITDA)







Chemical Oxygen Demand intensity (Kg per € EBITDA)







Solvay’s 2017 achievement for freshwater intake intensity and COD emission intensity are respectively 10 % and 20 % better than the 2020 target. This result is entirely due to the unforeseen deconsolidation of the GBU Performance Polyamides following the Group’s recent decision to divest this activity.

Water intake and discharge








Scope: Consistent with financial reporting.

Freshwater withdrawal (million m3)







Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) emissions (metric tons O2)







The Group’s significant reduction in freshwater withdrawal is due to the deconsolidation of the GBU Performance Polyamides (- 181 Mm3), partly compensated by the GBUs Composite Materials (+ 6.3 Mm3) and Technology Solutions (+ 7.5 Mm3). Smaller increases were observed for the GBUs Soda-Ash and Derivatives (+ 2.5 Mm3), Solvay Energy Services (+ 2.5 Mm3) and Novecare (+ 1.5 m3) whereas decreases were observed for the GBU’s Specialty Polymers (- 2.1 Mm3) and Aroma Performance (- 1.3 Mm3).

The Group’s improvement for COD emissions is due mainly to the deconsolidation of the GBU Performance Polyamides (- 3,049 metric tons), compensated by the emissions from the incoming GBU Technology Solutions (+ 586 metric tons). Increased COD emissions have been obtained on the sites of Spinetta (GBU Specialty Polymers) in Italy (+ 276 metric tons) and Spartanburg (GBU Novecare) in the US (+ 238 metric tons), both due to a degraded performance of the wastewater treatment unit . Decreases were obtained at the Vernon site (GBU Novecare) in the US (- 95 metric tons) due to an improved control of the wastewater treatment unit and changes in the product mix. The full effect of the mothballing of the soda-ash production in the site of Alexandria (GBU Soda Ash and Derivatives) in Egypt resulted in a further decrease of 243 metric tons of COD.