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Responsibly managing a shared resource

The sustainability of our operations relies on our ability to obtain the appropriate quality and quantity of water and to use this resource responsibly. Water risks and impacts experienced by our operations vary from region to region. Some sites are located in water scarce environments, others have to manage water excess, water quality or water discharge issues. Where possible, we seek to use lower-quality or recycled water to minimise extraction requirements from higher-quality water resources.

The social, cultural, environmental, ecological and economic values of water have also led to greater scrutiny of responsible water use and expectations from our stakeholders for improved resource stewardship.

In FY2017, we began the process to move BHP to a leadership position on water stewardship, a journey we expect to evolve over the next five years. In recognition of the risks and opportunities presented by water to our business, we began a program to more thoroughly understand water-related risks across our operations and catchments. This included the review of governance risks as they relate to internal and external processes, systems and our capacity to manage water-related issues. By managing risk, enhancing performance and transparency, effectively valuing water in decision-making, leveraging technology and collaborating with others, we will deliver productivity, long-term business resilience and enduring social and environmental outcomes. The outcomes of this review will feed into recommendations to be implemented at our assets.

Our targets

Created in consultation and collaboration with our assets and key internal and external stakeholders, our new sustainability performance targets and longer-term goals were approved by the Sustainability Committee in June 2017 and took effect from 1 July 2017.

Our targets and goals for water are:
Five year target: Reduce FY2022 fresh water withdrawal (1) by 15 per cent from FY2017 (2) levels.
Longer-term goal: In line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) 6 (3), BHP will collaborate to enable integrated water resource management in all catchments where we operate by FY2030.

Our total water input (water intended for use) in FY2017 was 283,900 megalitres, with 91 per cent defined as Type 2 (suitable for some purposes) or Type 3 (unsuitable for most purposes). This demonstrates our approach to utilising lower-quality water wherever feasible.

Onshore shale, safeguarding and managing environmental resources: United States

Producing gas from shale involves injecting water, sand and a small amount of chemicals under high pressure into the shale rock. This process is known as hydraulic fracturing. We are committed to be the safest company in the industry, protect the land where we operate, safeguard and manage our water resources, minimise air emissions from our operations and to be a good neighbour to our communities. We make publicly available the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluids, including chemicals, through the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry.

Read more Responsibly managing hydraulic fracturing (PDF 176 kb)


(1) Where ‘withdrawal’ is as defined in ‘A Practical Guide to Consistent Water Reporting’, ICMM (2017); and ‘fresh water’ is defined as ‘waters other than sea water’.
(2) FY2017 baseline will be adjusted for any material acquisitions and divestments based on asset water withdrawal, at the time of transaction.
(3) SDG 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

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