Our business, our suppliers, our communities and our customers depend on access to clean water.

Merck’s global water strategy aims to achieve sustainable water management within our operations and our supply chain and, as part of our “Be Well” commitment, to reduce the impact of water-related illness. We do this through our partnerships, advocacy efforts and employee volunteerism.

To achieve these strategic objectives, we are focusing on five specific commitments:

  • Understanding and reducing our operational water footprint
  • Reporting publicly on our water use and goals
  • Advocating for effective water policy
  • Working with partners to address water needs in communities globally
  • Encouraging and empowering our employees to be water stewards at work, at home and in their local communities

As we expand to meet the needs of emerging markets, we are increasingly operating and engaging with people and partners in regions of the world where clean water and sanitation are under great strain. Even in established markets, our business faces serious water-related risks. The initiatives, partnerships and goals to help address water risks are addressed in the following sections.

For information about wastewater and pharmaceuticals in the environment.

Merck is engaged in numerous initiatives worldwide to reduce our water use.

  • We have reserved approximately $100 million for improvements in infrastructure to help achieve Merck’s water commitments at our operating facilities around the world
  • By the end of 2016, all of our facilities will operate in alignment with the principles and objectives established in the Merck Water Standard. This includes assessing the impact of each facility’s operation on its local watershed, assuring compliance, and driving continuous improvement in how water is used and the quality of water discharged.
  • Our Energy Center of Excellence considers the total cost of water in energy-project evaluations and drives best practices that conserve both energy and water. Examples include:
    • Cooling-system optimization
    • Prompt repairs and maintenance of steam-distribution systems and traps
    • Recovery and reuse of steam condensate and water purification of “reject water”
    • Process-water purification-system optimization
    • Avoiding the use of water in mechanical seals, such as in pumps
  • We have conducted energy and water “treasure hunts” at four of our research and manufacturing facilities. At each facility, volunteers spent three days looking for opportunities to reduce demand for both energy and water, resulting in the implementation of projects that have reduced costs, while conserving water and resources as well as reducing GHG and other emissions and water discharges.
  • Our West Point, Pennsylvania facility is expected to save 600,000 gallons of fresh water by reusing wastewater streams. That site’s incinerator-emission control system is being upgraded with a wet scrubber to reduce acid gas emissions. The wastewater will be used to cool the combustion gases.
  • New laboratories and offices follow LEED® criteria and performance. Where possible, this also applies to build-to-suit leased office facilities. We have achieved LEED certification for our new Hangzhou, China, multidivisional facility, and for our new laboratory in Durham, North Carolina.

Merck endorsed the UN CEO Water Mandate, a public commitment to adopt and implement a comprehensive approach to water management, and we have aligned our water program with the UN CEO Water Mandate principles.

The CEO Water Mandate endorsers have a responsibility to make water-resources management a priority and to work with governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local communities and other interested parties to address global water challenges.

Merck is in the second year of a three-year partnership with the Safe Water Network, through which we are supporting efforts to bring sustainable water solutions to the rural poor in India. The initiative will provide safe water to 20,000–30,000 people by adding a dozen new sites to Safe Water Network’s existing field projects in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Through Merck’s support, Safe Water Network recently implemented an innovative education campaign in rural Indian communities that uses technology to communicate the importance of clean drinking water to their health.

We are also partnering with UN-Habitat and Coca-Cola on the innovative “Support My School” campaign, which aspires to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities for school children across India.


Merck has established public goals to reduce our use of water by 15 percent and 25 percent by 2015 and 2020, respectively. To facilitate achieving these goals, Merck has committed funding for improvements in reducing water demand and enhancing wastewater treatment.

At Merck, much of the water we use is for cooling utility systems in manufacturing plants that produce active pharmaceutical ingredients; these systems require large volumes of cooling water. Approximately 42 percent of the water we used globally in 2012 was for once-through non-contact cooling, a process by which water is pumped into a plant, circulated through heat-exchange piping to cool processes, and then discharged. Our efforts to reduce this use of water are a major part of our goal realization strategy.

During 2012, Merck used 9.1 billion gallons of water versus 9.5 billion gallons in 2009. This reflects a 4 percent reduction in water use over this period. Approximately 73 percent of the total water we used was supplied from nearby surface water and groundwater resources, with the balance sourced from municipal water supplies. Many Merck facilities employ water reuse and recovery strategies including recirculation of water in cooling towers and condensate recovery. During 2012, we recycled or reused 3.3 billion gallons of water, which means we used 26 percent less freshwater than would have been used without these water recycling and reuse strategies.


Last Updated August 9, 2013