The efforts made by the company in 2006 point to an ongoing trend in the food and drink industry to minimise the environmental impact of their operations. Wal-Mart has been one of the leaders in this area, placing a mandate on companies to reduce their packaging by 5 per cent, among other requirements. Nestlé is the world's largest food and drink manufacturer and could have a similar, if indirect, impact on the environmental policies of other manufacturers in the sector.. In a management report issued this month Nestlé said its factories worldwide had cut water use to 155 billion litres in 2006, from 218 billion litres in 1998. In 2006, about 100 factories had reduced their total water use by the company's plan to cut 3 per cent off consumpton per tonne of product per year, the company reported. The cuts were made even though production volume has almost doubled in the past decade, the company estimated. Since 2001, the company has reduced its water use per kilogram of product by 38 per cent, when Nestlé Waters operations are excluded. The Nestlé Waters business achieved a 33 per cent reduction, the report stated. This translates to reducing the amount of additional water needed to produce 1 litre of bottled water to 1 litre from 1.5 liters. "This amount is required at this stage to maintain necessary quality and safety levels," the company stated. Nestlé Waters used 40 billion litres of water in 2006. Half of the amount was pure bottled water for human consumption produced in 105 Nestlé Waters' factories and sold in about 130 countries. The other half was mainly water used for operational processes and cleaning. The company cited saving water as especially important in water-stressed areas. For example the company has invested in technology for its Nescafé factory close to Bangkok in a bid to minimise water use and maximise the recycling of effulents. The improvements in water efficiency since 2002 enabled Nestlé to save the equivalent of 47 billion litres of water and Nestlé Waters to save eight billion litres. This refers to water resources Nestlé did not use because of the higher water efficiencies of its manufacturing processes, said Brabeck-Letmathe, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. "Nestlé invests to improve the situation because water availability -- both quantity and quality -- touches our business in a number of ways," he said. "First, our suppliers of agricultural raw materials depend on water, and secondly we as industrialists need water for manufacturing. Therefore, it is in our vital interest to limit consumption and waste of the resource."