According to the NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the global demand for water is projected to grow by 40 percent by the year 2030 - a sobering reminder as tomorrow, March 22, is World Water Day. A surging global population coupled with increased water scarcity is not only an environmental threat – this trend can also have a detrimental effect on businesses, their operations and supply chains - and of course, brand reputation if they are seen as contributing to the problem.
EDF says it is working to help reduce water usage by teaming up with businesses such as AT&T to look for ways to reduce water. With this year’s World Water Day theme being “Leaving no one behind,” it is also worth noting that EDF is working with both governments and the private sector to take a closer look at their water usage so that businesses and citizens have safe access to this precious resource.
Water scarcity not only imposes a significant impact on the environment, but it can also have a direct impact on businesses. Some of the effects are obvious. When water is scarce, vegetation is unable to grow, which prevents companies who rely on agriculture to produce their products. Indirectly, if water is scarce, the cost of obtaining water will increase, causing businesses to pay more for water while possibly sacrificing other expenditures for the company. Businesses could also find themselves mired in competition with municipalities for water.
While many individuals try to live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, some people have criticized the environmental movement for focusing too much on individual efforts and not enough on holding companies accountable for their actions. To that end, EDF partnered with AT&T beginning in 2010 as the company said it had a strong interest in looking at their water consumption and seeing what could be done. Together, the organizations created a water efficiency toolkit to help reduce water use from cooling towers.
To help extend the success of AT&T reducing its overall water consumption, the company has been working with EDF to pass the tools they developed within the partnership. According to a press release within the partnership’s case study, among the partnership’s successes was finding 28 billion gallons in water savings within commercial buildings across the U.S.
EDF is also focusing on cooling towers, especially in multi-story buildings. Unlike homes that can rely on a central ventilation and cooling system that can move cooler air located outside of the home inside, multi-story buildings rely on cooling towers to produce cooler air. Cooling towers rely on piped water to keep a building’s temperature at comfortable levels by using pipes that work to remove heat. This method is similar to perspiration in humans, which uses sweat droplets to cool us down by evaporation.
EDF suggests that companies evaluate the possibility of using water treatment technology to reduce water and chemical use in cooling towers. Also, EDF recommends that companies use more cost-effective air conditioning tactics, such as ways for bringing outside air in that could reduce the need for cooling towers when possible.
Businesses clearly need water in order to sustain their growth, but several cities across Texas have become water-stressed, making businesses worry that the water they require for their operations may not be around too much longer. To help find solutions for this problem, cities in Texas have worked with EDF to create water management strategies to reduce their water usage. It is estimated that Dallas, Austin and Houston could save a combined total of 2.5 billion gallons each year just by optimizing cooling systems within their buildings.
Although California is now considered drought-free, it is still important for individuals, as well as businesses, to practice water management strategies to ensure they are in a good position should another drought happen. According to EDF, by optimizing their cooling technologies alone, businesses and institutions in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles can save a combined amount of 2.1 billion gallons of water. EDF also provides resources available for other ways companies can help reduce their water usage.
Businesses are often criticized for not doing enough to help the environment, including water conservation, but it is crucial for them to not only state publicly they care, but to take bold action. As we can see in states such as California and Texas, water scarcity is a long-term threat to both businesses and the community of which they are a part. Several businesses have harnessed EDF’s resources for water management and to reduce wasted water – after all, as this NGO has made clear, “reducing water use is easier than you think.” If more businesses scale up their efforts to conserve water, they could become a critical part of the world’s movement to take this stubborn problem.
Image credit: Yoann Boyer/Unsplash
Ashley Paskill is a journalist from Hatfield, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Temple University in 2017 and has since been writing for publications such as Uloop, That Music Mag, Totally Driven, and North Penn Now. In her free time, she loves spending time with friends and watching “Law and Order: SVU” marathons.