Concrete is the most-used construction material worldwide. Previous studies on the environmental impacts of concrete production have mainly focused on the materials involved and energy consumption, as well as CO2 emissions; little is known, however, about its water consumption as well as the effective measures to reduce such consumption. We quantify water use of global concrete production in 2012 and project the value to 2050. The results show that concrete production was responsible for 9% of global industrial water withdrawals in 2012 (this is approximately 1.7% of total global water withdrawal). In 2050, 75% of the water demand for concrete production will likely occur in regions that are expected to experience water stress. Among possible ways of mitigating water demand are choosing the appropriate selection of electricity fuel mixes and improved processing of raw materials; however, these strategies may conflict with greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. This work develops a baseline estimate for water consumption and withdrawal for concrete production and identifies locations for targeted mitigation.
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S.M. gratefully acknowledges the support of the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship programme. This work represents the views of the authors, not necessarily the view of the sponsor. J. D. Herman, K. Ziotopoulou and F. C. Moore are thanked for their help.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figs. 1–12, Supplementary Tables 1–37
Data on cement consumption and electricity by fuel type for different countries; and water consumption and withdrawal for production of electricity by fuel source.
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Miller, S.A., Horvath, A. & Monteiro, P.J.M. Impacts of booming concrete production on water resources worldwide. Nat Sustain 1, 69–76 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-017-0009-5
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