You’ve been urged to reduce your carbon footprint—but what about your “aquaprint,” the new term used to describe the amount of water a business or a household consumes daily?
As drought conditions spread inexorably in many areas nationwide—including Dallas, where AT&T (News - Alert) is based—the telecommunications provider has joined with the New York City-based advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), to offer a suite of tools that they claim will help U.S. commercial buildings to save up to 28 billion gallons of water annually. That’s the equivalent of the amount of water that more than 765,000 Americans use at home in a given year.
Typically, 28 percent of daily water consumption in buildings with cooling towers is for air conditioning. The Building Water Efficiency toolkit has been designed to enable these structures to reduce water demand for HVAC by 14 percent to 40 percent overall.
Photo courtesy AT&T
The toolkit—including a spreadsheet “Water Scorecard”—which is available free at the EDF website, has been developed based on lessons learned from pilot projects that ran across the U.S. during the summer and fall of 2012. It gives organizations simple, cost-effective resources to build their own water efficiency programs and includes both technical and management tools to design, implement and document water savings. The combination of tools can be used to create the business case for investments in efficient water management.
"People knew these cooling systems use a lot of energy, but nobody had ever focused on how much water they guzzle, or how we could reduce that 'aquaprint,'" said Tom Murray, vice president of Corporate Partnerships at EDF. "Even we were surprised by what we were able to achieve with AT&T. It's a huge opportunity for companies to save water, save money and help out the communities where they operate."
Looking at its own operations, AT&T identified water savings opportunities of 14 percent to 40 percent per pilot facility and did so in a way that also made business sense. Indeed, one cooling tower filtration system upgrade costs less than $100,000 to install—but promises more than $60,000 in annual water and sewer savings. They filtration system upgrade pays for itself in less than two years—meaning that a minor $4,000 equipment upgrade to expand free air cooling promises nearly $40,000 in annual savings.
These savings, deployed companywide, add up. Through free air cooling and optimized cooling towers, AT&T aims to reduce its approximately one billion gallon annual cooling tower water use by 150 million gallons per year by 2015.
That’s a lot of water, but cooling tower water consumption accounts for approximately only 30 percent of AT&T's 3.3 billion gallons of annual water use.
"Thirty-one of our top water consuming facilities are in water-stressed regions," explained John Schinter, AT&T executive director of energy. "We couldn't wait until a drought put a strain on our operations; we needed to manage risk from water scarcity and increasing water costs today. EDF helped us find ways to do so that were good for the communities where we operate and that were financially sound."
To further its water efforts and collaboration with EDF, AT&T is hosting EDF Climate Corps fellows for the fourth summer in a row. One fellow is focused exclusively on continuing to realize water and energy savings from free air cooling; while another fellow is helping with a regional outreach program to share the tools and findings with organizations in water stressed areas.
AT&T remains committed to sustainability and was recently ranked Number One on Corporate Responsibility Magazine's 13th Annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens List. AT&T was also included in the 2012 Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson