We continue to look for ways to reduce our water use in our retail supermarkets. In 2016, Kroger explored several water reduction initiatives that we are now implementing. For example, we recently launched an initiative to reduce the amount of water used to clean utensils in Starbucks kiosks inside select stores. These “dipper wells” run around the clock at low flow but can be converted to push faucets, reducing water waste and improving cost effectiveness. This pilot has rolled out to 58 stores so far. We also expanded a pilot that started in 2015 that uses “smart” controllers on water-cooled refrigeration condensers at stores in hot, water-restricted climates. In 2016, our water use stayed approximately the same as the previous year (when not accounting for newer stores resulting from recent mergers). We expect additional water reduction benefits from these initiatives to materialize in 2017 and beyond. As a result, we set a goal to reduce water consumption in stores by 5% by 2020 using a 2015 baseline.
Our manufacturing plants continue to focus on reducing water use. These plants’ collective water consumption increased slightly from 2015 to 2016 (by less than 1%), due to building expansions, new processes and equipment, warmer weather, and changes to water metering—all of which require more water. Half of our plants decreased their water use during this time period—some by nearly 30%—by better understanding water flow, recycling water on pre-rinse, recirculating cooling water, improving rinse systems, replacing inefficient equipment, reprocessing rejected water from reverse osmosis plants, reducing water leaks, and improving condensate return systems. Many water conservation techniques also help reduce energy consumption and expenses. Our goal is to reduce water used per unit of production by 3% between 2016 and 2017. With a renewed focus on conservation techniques, we expect to improve our progress toward this goal.
Water Conservation in our Stores
In 2016, Kroger launched the Starbucks Dipper Well Retrofit project to reduce water consumption in our stores. The Starbucks coffee kiosks located in select Kroger stores use “dipper wells” to clean utensils while preparing coffee orders. By default, the water in these wells runs around the clock at low flow. We worked together with the Starbucks team to convert the equipment to push faucets controlled by our associates as needed, reducing water waste and improving cost effectiveness. The pilot project has rolled out to 58 stores so far, and we estimate that reduced water consumption at these stores alone will total more than 10 million gallons annually — enough water to run more than 250,000 loads of laundry! We expect to retrofit 17 more stores by the end of 2017 and a total of 300 stores by 2020. This will save 52.5 million gallons of water annually by 2020.