Water Conservation

Making a Difference Drop by Drop


As a global company, some of our restaurants operate in water-stressed areas and are committed to pursuing investments that allow us to continually improve water efficiency.

Good water stewardship matters to employees, customers and shareholders, as underscored by the results of our materiality assessment. It also matters to Yum!. We have been addressing water use in our restaurants since 2005, when we set a goal to reduce water consumption in company-owned restaurants by 10 percent by 2015. Yum! reached our goal in 2017 and avoided using roughly 2.2 billion gallons of water during that time period. These savings have come through implementation of water conservation measures such as low-flow fixtures and improved irrigation techniques.

water conservation

At Yum! corporate headquarters in Louisville, Ky., we have upgraded our irrigation system to reduce water use by 40 percent, saving about 1.1 million gallons of water annually. In 2018, we expect to save 1.3 billion gallons of water system-wide, resulting in roughly $2.3 million in savings. Through these efforts, we are helping to address UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6, which calls for ensuring access to water.

Yum!’s operations and supply chain are dependent on water for many important functions, so we continually monitor and look for ways to optimzie its use. In 2017, we conducted a water risk assessment using the World Resources Institute (WRI) Aqueduct tool, which considers restaurants’ water risk by location, brand and withdrawal volume. Due to the number of new restaurants opened by Yum! Brands and our franchisees each year, we plan to update this water stress review and risk scores every two years to maintain an adequate picture of our risk exposure. In 2017, restaurants in Cape Town, South Africa saw these risks come to life when drought conditions severely restricted water availability.

Yum! shares its water risks and conservation efforts with Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and received a Water Score of A minus for 2017. We have partnered with CDP since 2011 to report data for U.S. restaurants. International locations may be included in future reporting efforts as we improve our data collection methods.

While our existing sustainable paper-based packaging and palm oil commitments are not directly related to our restaurant water reduction efforts, we are committed to procuring both from responsible and sustainable sources, which results in improved global forest health and watersheds.


Irrigation can account for up to 45 percent of a restaurant’s water use. With water costs and awareness of water scarcity issues increasing, Taco Bell decided to take action to reduce its impact. After a conservation pilot program in 2012 successfully demonstrated a 40 percent reduction in irrigation water, Taco Bell overhauled the irrigation systems in over 900 of its company-owned restaurants and updated its specification for new construction to a new, less water-intensive standard. The brand’s new 2017 landscape designs, being adopted by both company and franchise restaurants, focus on drought-resistant planting such as zero-scaping and reducing water use through irrigation controls and bioretention design, as well as consideration of regional precipitation and hardiness zones and providing local support as needs differ.

Reducing Water




Restaurant Type

Our brands are very different. This is reflected in their water use. In 2017, the average Pizza Hut restaurant in the U.S. used about 3.5 times less water than a KFC restaurant.

Water Stress

Using the WRI Aqueduct tool, we evaluate global shed conditions for the 45,000 restaurants in our system. Approximately 20 percent depend on water supplies located in watersheds facing high levels of stress. In these areas, we implement measures to ensure we don’t use more water than necessary.

Local Regulations

Local regulations, such as those put in place during severe droughts, affect which practices we employ. Jurisdictions with higher prices for water tend to encourage greater conservation by all users.

Green Building Features

Company-owned restaurants and franchisees who choose to participate in our green building efforts have access to market-based tools and best practices for improving water conservation.



Irrigation system improvements, such as sensors that prevent irrigation when it is raining, and the addition of local and drought-tolerant plant species, decrease our need for irrigation water.


From dishwashers in the kitchen to ice machines in the dining area, high-efficiency equipment helps us save money and minimize our water use.


Low-flow fixtures like toilets and faucet taps are inexpensive upgrades that make it easy to use less. Another option is to add sensors or time-limited metering devices to hand wash sinks.