Water Stewardship

Water is a critical input to the agricultural systems that grow and support the food produced for McDonald’s restaurants.

The use of water in our supply chain is significant and is one of the factors that we consider in our raw material sourcing strategies, which focus on our six priority products. In relation to our supply chain, water consumption in the restaurants is relatively less impactful and varies widely in sensitivity because water availability is a very localized issue.


In Our Restaurants

We estimate that in 2015 a traditional, freestanding U.S. McDonald’s restaurant (including its customers) consumes roughly 1,900 m3 per restaurant per year or almost 1,400 gallons per day. By comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an average American household uses around 400 gallons of water per day. That’s roughly 3.5 times more water use per day than an average American family — however, a McDonald’s restaurant can serve thousands of customers.

When we study where water is used in our restaurants, we see that the main areas of water usage are landscape irrigation, washrooms and cleaning — providing focus for our water conservation efforts. In the U.S., McDonald's restaurants can now conduct their own water surveys to quantify the result of implementing various water fixture improvements. The survey focuses on the four areas identified below.


Every Drop Counts on a Parched Continent

In Australia, where water scarcity is a significant concern, water conservation is an important focus for McDonald’s restaurants. Current water management initiatives include:

  • Rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilet flushing

  • Water-efficient fixtures with flows set to optimize use, including a water-efficient spray rinse gun, which has reduced the flow rates and water consumption

  • Crew and manager training on water usage

  • Detailed landscaping guidelines



In 2012 we used the Global Water Tool, developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), to map water use and assess risks for over 25,000 of McDonald’s restaurant locations. The tool helped us estimate that about 25% of the restaurants analyzed are in areas where potential water scarcity is expected in 2025. As used here, “potential water scarcity” means “scarcity” as defined in WBCSD Global Water Tool. It does not include “stress” as defined in that tool.

To address water efficiency in the restaurants, we are focusing in several areas. For example, in the U.S., our new restaurant construction and remodel standards include low flow urinals, high efficiency toilets and faucets. We also recommend smart irrigation to be installed to more accurately monitor when and how much to irrigate the restaurant landscape. In addition, we encourage sustainable design practices through our U.S. Restaurant Design Site Planning Guide such as utilizing native and/or drought tolerant landscaping, and storm water management through the use of rain gardens, permeable pavement and rainwater collection and reuse where it makes sense. We have also incorporated best practices in our restaurant operations manuals and checklists. 

In 2014, the Company began developing a long-term water stewardship strategy, both for restaurants and our supply chain, which we hope to finalize in 2016-2017. Key considerations include the way water fits into our global restaurant guidelines and best practices, as well as our sustainable sourcing goals.

In 2014, the Company conducted additional water risk mapping using the Aqueduct tool developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) to pinpoint the number of McDonald’s restaurants in areas of high or extremely high water stress. Going forward, the Company’s geographic regions will be able to use a more data-driven, risk-based approach to advance water stewardship, manage efficiency and prepare for future water scenarios. We have also encouraged our suppliers to use the World Resources Institute Aqueduct tool to assess their own water risk.