Water Stewardship

Water is an essential input to our operations, especially in mining and fertilizer production. Water is also an essential input for agriculture, and our grower customers are significant users of this valuable resource. As it is a shared resource, it is important for us and growers to use water efficiently and protect water quality, helping to maintain positive environmental impacts and ensuring operational stability.

Key water-related ambitions:

ESG Performance Goal/Target

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  • Complete a watershed risk assessment of our production sites in 2021 to inform context-based operational water targets by 2023

Our Approach:

We recognize the need for equitable sharing of water resources and are mindful of regional water use, needs and conditions. We take actions to be good water stewards within the basins where we operate.
 
We established Nutrien’s Water Strategic Issue Team, a company-wide cross-functional group of subject matter experts, to review Nutrien’s water footprint and identify water-related risks and opportunities across our value chain. The team identifies opportunities that support water stewardship and develops stakeholder engagement strategies. 

Read Nutrien’s Water Position.

WATER USE IN OPERATIONS
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At our manufacturing sites, we strive to reduce freshwater use and protect water quality to reduce costs and environmental impacts.

Our primary uses of water are for producing nutrients, such as milling in mining operations, steam generation and process cooling at our fertilizer production facilities. Water is also used to produce some of our liquid products.  

Water availability is crucial for our two phosphate and six potash mining operations. The majority of our fertilizer production facilities use freshwater resources (for example, rivers or groundwater) to supply the water needed for operations.  

To minimize this impact, we seek to use alternative water sources where feasible, including gray water, ocean water or recycled water within our own facilities. Some of our production locations cycle water through cooling towers.

WATER QUALITY IN OPERATIONS
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Our operations comply with water discharge permits and limitations for the protection of receiving waters, lands and public works. We strive to protect water quality by managing:  

  • Water discharges: We meet and strive to surpass regulated water quality thresholds for our facility water discharges through engineering controls, testing and monitoring programs, and treatment if required. If not managed properly, our water discharges could impact the quality of surrounding surface water or groundwater. Where needed, we incorporate water treatment technologies and best practices to minimize impacts on water quality. 

  • Storm water: Rainwater can transport materials into surface water bodies. Some of our operations are engineered to handle large rain events during which excess storm water is managed with diversion channels to storm or tailings ponds, permitted injection wells and/or storm water discharge facilities. We also divert clean off-site storm water from entering our sites by diverting to natural drainage channels where possible.

  • Gypstack water discharge and treatment: Water contained in the pores of our gypstacks (stockpiles of phosphogypsum byproduct from phosphoric acid production) and storm water runoff that comes into contact with gypstacks is acidic. Through the formal closure of gypstacks, Nutrien uses surface grading and placement of low permeability covers on gypstacks to prevent storm water infiltration. Additionally, as water continues to drain from gypstacks following closure, it is collected and treated before being discharged to the environment in accordance with permitted specifications. 

  • Phosphate mine reclamation: As part of current reclamation practices, the material that is removed from the upper layers of the mine(overburden) are backfilled. If the naturally occurring metals in the overburden materials come into contact with water from precipitation (as was allowed in legacy practices), the metals can begin to leach, negatively impacting nearby surface water and groundwater. We preserve surface water quality through proper phosphate mine reclamation including installation of low permeability caps on overburden materials. Nutrien has been recognized by the American Exploration & Mining Association for our outstanding closure design and reclamation of a legacy phosphate mine in Idaho. 

BEST PRACTICES AND WATER STEWARDSHIP IN AGRICULTURE
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In Nutrien’s Retail operations, our whole-acre solutions address water management and quantify water-related performance, with the ability to access potential market opportunities and incentives. Given climate change and growing competition for water resources amid increasing water scarcity, finding opportunities to make agriculture more water efficient, and building resilience in cropping systems are key.

Our grower customers rely on water for product blending and irrigation in arid growing environments. Their water dependency can vary from year to year based on weather patterns. We promote services and advice that improve water use efficiency and reduce nutrient impairment to groundwater and surface water.

  • Precision agriculture: uses technology, including GPS and geospatial data processing analytics, to allow growers to optimize water use considering variability in the field.  

  • Agrible software: provides field-level predictive analytics, enables farmers to quantify their performance regarding water use and other sustainability metrics, and enhances data connectivity to food companies and other value chain partners.

  • Nutrient management: involves determining the 4Rs (the Right Source of plant nutrients at the Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place) to minimize nutrient runoff and leaching. Where appropriate, this may include conservation practices such as structural waterway protection.

  • Irrigation management: involves infrastructure and technology to efficiently water crops in dry regions, minimizing evaporation and improving yields.

  • No-till and reduced-till practices: creates a narrow furrow for planting seeds rather than plowing or disking. This leaves cover crop residues intact on the surface and provides a variety of soil health benefits including increased water retention and infiltration. 

Feeding the Future Plan

Transforming Agriculture: Our 2030 Commitments.

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