Water conservation on a Texas-sized scale September 2013

To consumers across Texas, water conservation might mean installing a rainwater system, taking shorter showers or faithfully following your community's watering schedule.  But if you’re operating a company that employs thousands of water users, how do you conserve this precious resource-and convince your employees to do the same?

We wanted to find out what some of Texas' largest employers are doing to conserve water, and during this time of long-lasting drought, we want to encourage other businesses to follow suit.

In drought-stricken San Angelo, waterdatafortexas.org lists area reservoirs at just 11.2% full. Here, water conservation is not a new concept.  In fact, Goodfellow Air Force Base has had a conservation program in place for about 15 years, expanding the program as the drought worsened.

"We're required by Executive Order to reduce our water consumption and to implement minimum control measures for any construction project-even walkways," reports Base Energy Manager Mary Lumsdon.  Indoor conservation measures include low-flow toilets, showers and faucets and waterless urinals.  Outdoors, measures include using a 10,000-gallon rainwater system for irrigation, installing artificial turf on a base sports field and having a sprinkler system with a single shut-off control when rain is plentiful.

"At one time, the base received a Tree City USA award.  Now, we're not planting trees," says Art Silver, Base Pollution Prevention Manager.  Today, drought-resistant plants, like red yucca and sage, are being used.  (To see Goodfellow's xeriscaping in action, check out the photos posted in our Flickr group What Does Your Texas Drought Look Like?)

One thing Goodfellow does especially well is education.  That's something that's very important because base residents are coming from all over the country, often from places where water shortages rarely occur.  "We have several events where we educate everyone from kids in our daycare to troops in the dining hall about water and energy conservation," Lumsdon says.  "We talk to facility managers about water conservation monthly, and we have a 24/7 hotline where on-base leaks can be reported."

Implementing water conservation measures, Silver says, is as easy as having an all-around plan and promoting it.  "There are simple solutions.  We do as much outreach as we can."

San Antonio has long been lauded as a Texas city that knows how to conserve.  Recently celebrating the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking, Toyota knew water was a precious resource in San Antonio, and the company built its manufacturing plant with that in mind.

"Water is a major component of the vehicle building process," states Jorge Garcia, Manager, Plant Engineering.  "We knew we were building in a water sensitive area (Edwards Aquifer), and we knew San Antonio had an extensive network of recycled water available for industry.  Toyota analyzed the water quality and determined, after filtering and cleaning, it could be used."

The plant uses 1 million gallons of recycled water each production day to irrigate developed areas, for its cooling towers and in the vehicle cleaning process.  "Although recycled water is cheaper to purchase than domestic water, once we apply the required filtering, costs begin to equal those of domestic water," Garcia says.  Still, Toyota's commitment to conservation overrode this issue.

In addition to manufacturing operations, plant offices also have timed faucets and auto-flushing commodes.

"Toyota's two basic principles are continuous improvement and respect for people.  We extend respect to the communities our plants are in.  We saw a critical water issue in San Antonio, and we decided to use recycled water," Garcia states.

Texas Instruments' Richardson, Texas, facility has the distinction of being the world's first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified semiconductor manufacturing facility.  Conserving Texas water was just one process that helped them earn that title.

"We implement water reuse a lot-it accounts for 26% of our water use globally, primarily in manufacturing processes and building cooling," reports Lara Hussain, Director, Sustainability Stakeholder Relations.  "Water reuse has dramatically reduced our water use overall.  It gives us more efficient operations and quick returns, plus we're giving back to the community."

The Richardson fabrication facility takes advantage of reused water for product rinses, cooling towers and air abatement systems.  It has a rainwater storage pond, which collects air conditioning condensate and rainwater for irrigation needs.  And the administration building, certified LEED Gold, has low-flow toilets and waterless urinals.

"All of Texas Instruments' new buildings have these features, and existing buildings are being retrofitted with more efficient plumbing during bathroom renovations," Hussain says.

These physical projects show how to manufacture products with less water, and that inspires employees.  "The Richardson facility is a good example.  Employees were using these processes for the first time, and it inspired them to come up with even more ideas for water-saving improvements," Hussain says.

"It's just a part of how we do business.  It's been in our DNA for a long time."

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