Woolworths looks to innovation to conserve water, offers tips and learnings

  • Innovation a key driver for Woolworths’ long-term approach to mitigate risks of water availability
  • Woolworths outlines top ten ways it saves water
  • Tips to save water in your home

Woolworths is on a journey to drastically reduce the amount of water it uses by putting water use in focus in stores, offices, distribution centres and across the supply chain.

With the South African Government’s National Water Week (14 – 22 March) putting water conservation into focus, Woolworths is showcasing its approach to managing this precious resource responsibly.

In general, growing public awareness regarding the water situation in South Africa has been driven by the worst drought in South Africa in more than 20 years and the knock-on effects impacting on food availability, but also by flooding, and concerns about acid mine drainage issues.


“To help address water scarcity and drive environmental awareness as a whole, Woolworths has set the water saving bar high throughout its operations and supply chain,” said Woolworths Group Head of Sustainability, Justin Smith.

Here are ten ways Woolworths is saving water:

  1. Woolworths has installed real-time electronic water metering at most stores across South Africa, to improve water measurement and monitoring.
  2. Before opening a new store, the design of the property is carefully considered to ensure it uses water efficiently. As much water as possible is kept on site for re-use via recycled and grey water systems. Rain water is used for irrigation where possible. Woolworths has achieved a massive 41% decrease in water usage in stores since 2008.
  3. Woolworths Head office invested in its own water treatment plant and uses a previously unutilised underground water supply, saving the local municipality almost 15 million litres of water every year.
  4. Rainwater harvesting and reuse systems have been installed at distribution centres for activities like tray and floor washing as well as toilet flushing.
  5. Through engagement programmes such as the Farming for the Future initiative, Woolworths measures the amount of water used by suppliers, and is helping farmers reduce water wastage and water pollution. The programme encourages farmers to improve soil quality thereby increasing water retention, promoting efficient irrigation techniques and to use pesticides and fertilisers minimally, improving the quality of wastewater from farms.
  6. Together with WWF-South Africa and Marks & Spencer, Woolworths has implemented a water stewardship project in the Breede catchment of the Western Cape, helping stone fruit farmers in that area implement projects that reduce collective risks related to water availability and quality.
  7. Woolworths is helping remove water-hungry invasive alien vegetation in the Leeu River catchment and on the farm of one wine supplier, Paul Cluver. Alien plants use over 7% of South Africa’s water resources. Woolworths has invested in the WWF-SA Water Balance Programme for more than six years. The scheme, launched in association with the government’s Working for Water programme, has multiple objectives, including reducing the impact of invasive alien plants on water supplies, restoring biodiversity and functioning ecosystems as well as creating jobs and economic empowerment.
  8. As part of its transformational partnership with WWF-SA, Woolworths has completed life cycle assessments (LCA’s) of key products including, milk, beef and t-shirts to identify water usage and impacts across the value chain, and prioritise improvements.
  9. All of the fabric suppliers for Woolworths’ clothing adhere to very strict standards when it comes to dyes, materials and chemicals to ensure they don’t pose a water pollution risk.
  10. Woolworths is also engaged with school learners through the Making the Difference education programme, which supports water awareness through the provision of curriculum based learning content and donation of water tanks to under-resourced schools through an annual schools competition.

While Woolworths focuses more on long-term programmes using innovation and technology to save on water, the company is also supporting drought relief efforts to address the current drought crisis through funding the work of Agri-SA and Gift of the Givers.


Helping citizens save water at home has economic benefits as well as environmental ones. Woolworths offers these tips that should be implemented whenever possible:

  1. Be aware of your water footprint. Conduct a water audit at home, determine your monthly use from your municipal bill and set goals to become more water efficient. Monitor your use, respect water restrictions that are in place and keep track of your progress.
  2. Fix leaks at home and report public water leaks to your local municipality. An estimated 37% of water is lost from leaks that cost South Africa billions of Rand every year.
  3. Make your garden water-wise by planting indigenous drought-resistant plants which require minimal watering. Additionally, only water your garden very early in the morning or after sunset to reduce water loss through evaporation.
  4. Capture rainwater from gutters to use in your garden and invest in a rainwater tank. Rainwater is free and also untreated, so it has less of a carbon-footprint.  
  5. Install a grey-water system and recycle water at home. Generally, between 40 and 60% of household water is used for non-essential purposes, such as watering gardens and filling swimming pools.
  6. Do not pour toxic paint, solvents, chemicals, poisons or pesticides into storm-water, sewer drains or normal rubbish. Find out where your nearest hazardous waste site is and dispose of polluting substances responsibly.
  7. Identify and remove invasive alien vegetation from your garden and local wetland. Protect and keep your local freshwater ecosystems pollution-free. If you see someone polluting water call the Blue Scorpions on 0800 200 200.
  8. Be water wise and purchase water-efficient fixtures and fittings as well as water-saving appliances. Use the economy cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine to save water and energy.

“By making a few minor adjustments to our views and behaviour we can all have a massive impact on the sustainability and security of our country’s fresh water supply. I urge everyone to be mindful of the water that is available to us and how we use it now, before it runs out altogether,” concludes Smith.




Issued on behalf of   Woolworths

Issued by                                            

Amy Shelver

Meropa Communications

 011 506 7381/071 880 4831


For Woolworths: Justin Smith