Ecolab Case Study: Ford Saves Water With Smart Technology (2017)

This case study explores how the collaboration between Ford and Nalco Water has focused on a Chicago assembly plant’s cooling towers and pre-treatment baths to reduce water use.

Primary Functions

  • Learn how Ford worked with Nalco Water to enhance efficiency and cut water consumption at its Chicago assembly plant.

Detailed Description



Ford Motor Company has reduced water use by more than 10 billion gallons since 2000 and is aiming for an additional 30 percent reduction per vehicle from 2015 to 2020. Its long-term ambition: zero freshwater use in manufacturing.

To enhance efficiency and cut water consumption at its Chicago assembly plant, Ford worked with Nalco Water.


The partnership focused on two areas that are heavily dependent on water:

  • Cooling towers, which consume large quantities of water and have operational challenges such as scaling, corrosion, fouling and biological growth– all of which impact water usage, performance and costs.
  • Pre-treatment baths, where metal is treated before it is painted – a process that also consumes a significant amount of water. To improve efficiency, Ford wanted to continuously monitor water overflow when the baths were refilled.

Nalco Water implemented two projects to help the plant use water more efficiently:

  • 3D TRASARTM Water Saver Technology, a digital “connected chemistries” solution, was installed to optimize cooling tower performance and reduce water use. The system is continuously monitored by the Ecolab System Assurance Center, which provides real-time resolution of problems – preventing significant water loss.
  • Nalco Water’s Wireless Meters were set up in the pre-treatment baths to constantly track the programmed water flow rate. If there is a change, paint process engineers and on-site representatives receive an instant alert. Previously, problem identification and resolution could take days or even months. Circular water strategies (reuse and recycling of water) also are playing an important role in the plant’s future water management strategy. Nalco Water is working with Ford to implement technology that will potentially lead to a significant reduction in water use by recycling phosphate rinse water. The plant is developing processes to enable reuse of a portion of the pre-treatment process water, which will greatly reduce the need to tap into the municipal water supply.



Topics & SDGs

WWF Mitigation