Intel, Arizona Diamondbacks put water solutions on tap

The rock formation in Arizona known as the Wave.
ShutterstockMikhail Kolesnikov
The rock formation in Arizona known as the Wave.

Drought, and an imbalance between water demand and supply, continues to plague the Southwest. Arizona's main source of water, the Colorado River, on which 2 million jobs in the state and over $100 billion in labor income are dependent annually, is threatened. Water management is front and center in current discussions in Arizona's state capital, and the recent 2018 State of Green Business report revealed an opportunity for businesses to do more about water within their operations, supply chains and beyond.   

Fortunately, many businesses in Arizona are leading the way in leveraging their voices on water as well as creating positive impact on the ground. Last month at GreenBiz 18, water featured prominently in session agendas and informal conversations about business challenges. Phoenix was the perfect place for focused conversations on this hot-button topic. Coming off GreenBiz18, we were inspired to highlight how companies associated with the Business for Water Stewardship network, a comprehensive corporate water stewardship platform housed at the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), are making a difference. 

For example, the Diamondbacks, Arizona's professional baseball team which employs over 2,000 full and part-time workers, has installed low-flow aerators on all sinks and low-flow flush valves on toilets and urinals at Chase Field, halving water usage in those areas. And, at the Diamondbacks Spring Training Facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, native vegetation and passive water harvesting via desert arroyos which flow throughout the ballpark site address landscape water issues as well.

Perhaps equally important — considering the State of Green Business findings that over half of business water use is in the value chain — the Diamondbacks are working to raise awareness about water issues among fans and customers. They will collaborate with Major League Baseball's first initiative to estimate the water used at the 10 ball parks in the Phoenix metro area during the Cactus League's 2018 spring training season, and restore an equivalent amount of water to depleted areas of the nearby Verde River watershed by purchasing BEF's Water Restoration Certificates. The league will engage thousands of fans during spring training by inviting them to take pledges to conserve water as part of the Change the Course campaign (profiled at GreenBiz 17 by freshwater expert Sandra Postel).  

The team and the league are not alone in their river restoration efforts in Arizona. Intel organized a panel at GreenBiz about corporate water replenishment strategies, which can be defined as restoring freshwater to geographies where a company uses water for operations or in its value chain. Participating panelists Intel and Coca-Cola have supported replenishment projects in Arizona as part of their overall water stewardship portfolio.

At the beginning of the session, the audience of 50, primarily working in a sustainability function, was asked how many of their companies had a corporate water stewardship strategy. Roughly half the companies did, but only three appeared to have a replenishment strategy in place. The session and discussion provided a broader corporate perspective on the variety of reasons why the businesses on the panel are choosing to support replenishment projects across the country.

BEF's Change the Course initiative represents over 40 companies that have supported over 40 replenishment projects across 11 states and in Mexico, representing over 10 billion gallons restored. In Arizona alone, Change the Course partners have supported over 15 projects in the state that have restored over 3 billion gallons to Arizona's rivers and streams — with more projects coming online soon.

Companies working in Arizona are taking additional steps beyond conservation and replenishment. The day before GreenBiz 18 opened, Business for Water Stewardship organized a visit by business leaders to Arizona's state capitol to make the business case for water. The group included representatives of Swire (Coca-Cola bottler), Intel, Ewing Irrigation, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cox Communications, Cox Automotive and Siemens. They met with the director of the Department of Water Resources, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and the president of the state senate to discuss what water-related risks businesses face and what the private sector is doing to contribute to solutions. The group also highlighted the need to work together across sectors to develop and implement sensible water policies and programs that help the economy, communities and the environment. 

It's not often that such a diverse group of businesses from disparate sectors come together to advance win-win solutions, but this experience, underscored at GreenBiz18, demonstrates the impact these collective efforts can have in helping to solve our shared water challenges. Others can join in creating and promoting 21st-century water solutions that help businesses and communities in the Southwest and beyond thrive long into the future.

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