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Water Conservation

If you're serious about conserving water as a manufacturer, you have to look at two things. First, how much water goes into your facility. Then, what is the quality of the water leaving your facility as it re-enters the environment. At Mohawk, we reduced our company-wide water consumption by an average of more than 11% a year—every year since 2005. At the same time, we made major improvements in the quality of wastewater released by our plants. Our goal is to reduce our total water use intensity by 25% by the year 2020 (as compared to 2008 levels).

There's a beautiful tributary along the James River by our Glasgow, VA facility. It eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay, and we're making a huge splash with our initiatives to protect this fragile watershed. Since nitrogen and phosphorus can upset the balance of the water, our engineers have found ways to reduce nitrogen emissions by more than 65% (since 2006) and reduce phosphorus levels by over 75%. To do this, we eliminated an entire step in our process and changed the way we dye yarn. We also began requiring suppliers to identify the phosphorus and nitrogen levels of everything they send to our plant. Now that we've proven the value of these new best practices, other Mohawk facilities can take advantage of them, too. Having engineered significant portions of the facility to be as environmentally sensitive as possible, we've earned ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 9001:2000 certifications and even been awarded the Virginia Governor's Environmental Excellence Award (GEEA).

Look at our water usage in recent years, and you'll see some dramatic reductions. How did we do it? We're continually upgrading to equipment and processes that use less water. For example, carpet dyeing typically requires large amounts of water, so we made major changes to our operations. Instead of continuous dyeing (running carpet under a spray of dye), we switched to water-saving Beck dyeing (placing the carpet in a vat of hot dye). Then, to save even more, we started using recycled water in the dyeing process. At our Lyerly facility, where we Beck-dye SmartStrand carpet, over 98% of the process uses 30% recycled water (rinse water that is recaptured and reused in the dye cycle). That's just one example. With nylon fiber, our mills dye the yarn itself, not the whole carpet. To do this, we made a large capital investment in a single-end dyeing technology that reduced wet pickup (the amount of water absorbed by the yarn) from 120% to 40%. We even use less water to wash the yarn after the dye is fixed.

At Mohawk, you'll hear us talking a lot about intensities. Water intensity. Energy intensity. Emissions intensity. That kind of thing. Intensities are how factories measure the total amount of water (or energy or emissions) it takes to do the things they do. We measure our intensities by the amount of resources needed to produce net sales. So how much water, energy, and emissions does it take for us to create world-class carpet? Less and less.