Water is an essential ingredient for creating delicious foods, but experts warn that it is becoming increasingly scarce. The United Nations suggests that more than one in six people worldwide do not have ample access to safe water. To better manage the planet's resources, Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., is using less water and being more efficient with what it must use.

Over the past three years, Kraft has reduced water used in its manufacturing processes by more than 3 billion gal -- enough water to fill nearly 5,000 Olympic swimming pools. That's a 21 percent reduction since 2005, exceeding the company's goal two years early.

"We're changing behavior and getting results," says Steve Yucknut, vice president, sustainability. "Around the world, thousands of our employees are working on projects that help us reduce our environmental impact. We focus on manufacturing since that's where we use the most water for internal operations. And we pay particular attention to water-scarce areas, where the need is greatest."

Kraft's water-conservation success stories include:
  • Florida. A Jacksonville coffee plant installed a closed-loop system to reuse water to cool coffee-grinding equipment instead of using city water, helping it reduce water use by more than 35 percent, nearly 20 million gal.

  • Georgia. An Atlanta bakery reduced water use by 33 percent, nearly 17 million gal. Employees reduced the amount of water used for cleaning specific equipment and also eliminated unnecessary recleaning of equipment. They also changed cleaning procedures to begin cleaning before using water, and repaired leaks at the facility.

  • Illinois. The Champaign grocery plant reduced water use by almost 20 percent, nearly 120 million gal. Employees raised awareness about ways to reduce water use, fixed leaks, and outfitted plant boilers and evaporating equipment to reuse well water instead of the town's water.

  • Illinois. At its Northfield corporate headquarters, three lakes on the campus capture rainwater for reuse in handling half of the property's irrigation needs. Also, the building is cooled by ice: recycled water is frozen at night, and fans push the cool air the ice generates into the offices.

  • Australia. The Port Melbourne plant won an environmental award for identifying opportunities and taking actions to reduce potable water use up to 39 percent (20 million gal/yr). The project will reuse production process water and optimize clean-in-place systems for manufacturing equipment. Port Melbourne continues to find new uses for wastewater -- even partnering with a road construction group to reuse approximately 2.6 million gal/yr for road compaction and dust suppression.

  • Bahrain. The cheese and beverage plant reduced water use by 33 percent (5 million gal/yr) by using alternative options to enhance the effectiveness of cleaning without compromising product quality. Now, product lines can run longer without interruption.

  • Germany. The Fallingbostel cheese plant reduced water use by 7 percent (18.5 million gal/yr) and now reuses its manufacturing process water instead of using the town's water to run the plant's cooling towers.
For more details on the company's sustainability focus and progress, visit www.kraftfoodsbetterworld.com.