For example, TSMC is widely acknowledged as a world leader in manufacturing advanced semiconductors for companies like Apple, Nvidia and Cerebras. Yet, the facilities where TSMC manufactures for those companies are located in just three sites in Taiwan. This makes the global production networks that manufacture these technologies quite fragile. Semiconductors, especially the most advanced ones, rely on a network of only a handful of facilities like TSMC’s.

Customers of those facilities cannot easily switch to another supplier in the face of a disruption, so issues that arise at a single facility can cascade through global supply chains. This can impact a wide variety of commodities that make use of semiconductors, as was experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major semiconductor manufacturers like Intel and TSMC claim to take water stewardship seriously. Yet, their own company reports suggest there may be trouble ahead. Despite TSMC’s investments in water reclamation and recycling, the company anticipates being able to provide only two-thirds of the daily water consumption needed at its Taiwan-based facilities.

Intel, meanwhile, claims to achieve net positive water use across its manufacturing network as a whole. But, it manages this achievement only by counting surplus water at locations in one part of the world against water deficits at its facilities elsewhere.

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