Why it matters
Water is an essential input to our operations, especially in mining and fertilizer production, and waterways are a crucial natural infrastructure asset for transport of our product to markets. As it is a shared resource, it is important for Nutrien and our growers to use water efficiently and protect water quality, helping to maintain positive environmental impacts and ensuring long-term operational stability and viability. Agriculture is also highly dependent on water, but localized challenges exist regarding availability and quality, which can vary significantly by region, and are often intensified by the effects of climate change.
Our water stewardship work supports the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Nutrien’s water stewardship actions are guided by our Safety, Health and Enviornment Policy and international best practices and guidance, such as the Alliance for Water Stewardship (“AWS”) International Water Stewardship Standard. Nutrien’s Water Strategic Issue Team (“W-SIT”) provides cross-functional subject matter expertise and a platform for transparent communication and strategic guidance throughout the Company. The W-SIT’s objectives are to review Nutrien’s water footprint, identify water-related risks and opportunities across our value chain, and develop context-based water targets that are most relevant and impactful to our business and the environment.
We take a watershed perspective across our operations to help us look outside our operational boundaries and understand the many environmental and social aspects of the watersheds in which we operate. Communities with whom our operations share watersheds rely on access to sufficient quantities of clean water for health, quality of life, economic well‐being and local environmental preservation. Nutrien is committed to working collaboratively to address shared water‐related challenges and opportunities. We support water stewardship in agriculture, starting at the farm field, through use of practices, products and digital tools that support sustainable agriculture and water stewardship in the entire agri-food value chain.
WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified
Nutrien is certified to The Water Council’s WAVE (Water Stewardship Verified) program. Nutrien has assessed water-related risk across the Company, identified the highest water-related impacts using credible water-related data and implemented best practice in improving water stewardship performance. In 2022, Nutrien became one of the first companies to achieve external verification for the WAVE program.
Our Actions: Site-Based Water Management in Our Operations
<2% of our water intake is in regions with high or extremely high baseline water stress.
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. The majority of our fertilizer production facilities use freshwater resources (for example, rivers or groundwater) to supply the water needed for operations. At some locations we use alternative water sources, including gray water or ocean water. We recycle water where possible to reduce freshwater use and increase production efficiencies. For example, in our Potash operations, excess liquid from tailings piles (that is, saturated brine) is reused in the production process where possible, and in our Phosphate operations, process water is reused in phosphoric acid production.
We manage our operations with permits to protect receiving waters, lands and public works. We care for water quality by managing:
Water discharges: We protect water quality thresholds for our facility water discharges through engineering controls, testing and monitoring programs, and treatment if required. 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 and directed to storm or tailings ponds, permitted injection wells and/or storm water discharge facilities. We also divert clean off-site storm water to natural drainage channels and prevent it from entering our sites where possible.
Gypstack water discharge and treatment: Process water within our gypstacks (stockpiles of phosphogypsum from phosphoric acid production), and storm water runoff that comes into contact with open gypstacks may be acidic. When gypstacks are formally closed per approved closure plan, Nutrien limits storm water infiltration by surface grading the gypstacks, and placement of appropriate cover systems. Non-contact storm water, or water that does not infiltrate the closed gypstack, is managed per permit and/or agency approvals. Process water that drains from closed gypstacks is collected and treated, or alternatively managed (reused), according to regulatory requirements before final discharge or disposition.
Phosphate mine reclamation: As part of current reclamation practices, the material that is removed from the upper layers of the mine (overburden) is 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 seek to preserve surface water quality through proper phosphate mine reclamation including installation of low permeability caps as necessary on overburden materials.
Our Actions: Water Stewardship in the Agri-Food Value Chain
With Nutrien’s extensive retail network and on-the-ground agronomic expertise, we are well positioned to connect farmers with current and future sustainability opportunities including implementing agricultural water stewardship through management practices that create positive outcomes for water, land, air and biodiversity.
Lake Winnipeg Water Stewardship Project
In 2022, Nutrien joined others to launch the Lake Winnipeg Water Stewardship Project. This project is focused on generating and measuring the potential water quantity and quality benefits of various water stewardship interventions on four potato farms within the Lake Winnipeg basin. The project is led by ALUS (originally “Alternative Land Use Services”), a charitable organization with an innovative community-developed and farmer-delivered program that produces, enhances and maintains ecosystem services on agricultural lands, working across six provinces in Canada. Participating farmers create water stewardship plans with support from project partners that will allow them to track impacts over time and help their operation become more resilient to changes in water availability. Learn more