What did you find?
We found that—like many large organizations—we use a lot of water. The amount is not as high as some industries, but enough to make a difference. We looked at several different water footprint methodologies. The field is still very fluid (pardon the pun), but we found that the Global Reporting Initiative
(GRI) Water Protocol was the best fit for the way we use water, so that’s what we’re using. We’re also
From left: Professor jim Schorr and Vanderbilt University MBA students, Russell Autry and Krystal Hooper.
working very closely with our bill payment team to ensure the best data accuracy possible. In 2010, we used 3.4 billion gallons of water. This is the equivalent to almost 5,400 Olympic sized pools.
How have you put together plans to manage your water use?
The analysis of our water consumption indicates that the 125 largest water-consuming facilities account for 50 percent of our total consumption. This set of facilities will be where we spend the most time developing ways to improve water usage since they represent the greatest opportunity.
We’re also using the idea of “water stress” to help prioritize our efforts. By layering on information from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Water Tool, we’ve identified that 31 of our top 125 water-consuming sites are in areas of “High” or “Very High” water stress. We’ll use this information to further prioritize our efforts and investment.
In addition, we’ve identified cooling towers as a big source of water use and are embarking on a project in 2011 to evaluate how to increase the efficiency of their water use. Cooling towers assist with chilling the air in some of our large facilities by using evaporation to cool the water that feeds the air chillers. They are often the most efficient cooling solution because the process to reject heat from water through evaporation is more efficient than mechanically rejecting it from air.
We’re continuing to learn more about our water use, and will work through the plans necessary to improve our performance.