Water is essential to life, and managing its consumption is critical for the health of future generations. Research shows that within 20 years, domestic demand for water will increase by 40 percent, requiring smart solutions that reduce water use where possible. Environmental Defense Fund and AT&T are exploring both operational and technical opportunities to help protect this vital resource.

In this video, John Schulz, AT&T's Director of Sustainability Operations and Ravi Bhandari, an EDF Climate Corps fellow, talk about how the company is working to identify new ways to save water.

AT&T took a look at water usage at its facilities across the United States, finding that 125 facilities were responsible for approximately 50 percent of the company's total water usage. There are a few common themes for these buildings: their size, their large tenant population or the fact that they house lots of network equipment.   There is one additional thing they have in common: cooling towers.

A typical 500 ton cooling tower generates 5,500 gallons of waste water each day, the equivalent of 4,300 flushes of an EPA Watersense toilet. These towers help cool the air inside the buildings by using evaporation to lower the temperature of water running through the mechanical chillers. Though they are an energy-efficient cooling solution, they put a strain on water resources.

AT&T has developed a pilot program that addresses this problem in three ways: identifying innovative water treatment technologies, evaluating operational improvements and maximizing the use of cool outside air to keep facilities chilled without any mechanical cooling.  Together with EDF, AT&T hopes to uncover tools and solutions that can be scaled up to other industries, potentially saving billions of gallons of water.

In their research, AT&T and EDF are focusing on the close relationship between energy and water, how a large amount of energy is used to pump water and how it takes a tremendous amount of water to generate electricity.  Optimizing the efficiency of energy systems can help make water systems more efficient, too.

"We're proud to be able to work with EDF to really look at this problem and make it into an opportunity for us to be more efficient.  We’re excited to take the lead in developing tools and resources that can be shared broadly to increase the conservation of this critical resource," says Schulz.