Intel’s operations in the United States, Costa Rica and India are officially net positive on water use, meaning that the company restores and returns more freshwater than it takes in in those regions.
Last year, Intel used 16 billion gallons of freshwater, reclaimed water and desalinated water. Internal water management practices resulted in more than 13 billion gallons of water flowing out of Intel, back to surrounding communities. Adding in restoration projects, Intel says that it is edging toward its global goal of returning and restoring more water than it uses to the community and the environment.
The company’s new sites are being built with their commitment to reach net positive water globally by 2030 in mind.
Todd Brady, Intel’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of Global Public Affairs, said: “More than ten years ago, we began to explore how we could better understand and reduce our water footprint. Five years ago, we set a public goal to restore 100 per cent of our consumption, and became the first tech company to set a companywide water restoration goal. Two years ago, we announced our goal to achieve net positive water by 2030, driven by our commitment to reduce our overall impact on our local watersheds and support the water resources that serve our communities.
“It is exciting to share that we have reached net-positive water in three countries, through strong partnerships with environmental nonprofits and local governments, and through our water stewardship investments. We are not stopping here – now we are focused on reaching net positive water in the remaining locations where we operate.”
According to Intel, water is arguably one of the most important resources when it comes to factory operations. It is used in manufacturing process, including in manufacturing tools that produce leading technology, in data centres and in evaporative cooling towers. Internal conservation efforts have allowed the company to save 9.3 billion gallons of water in the last year – an increase of 114 per cent over the past two years. Improvements and efficiencies in manufacturing processes mean Intel can do more with less, and on-site treatment plants allow the company to maximise its water reuse and reduce use of freshwater resources.
During 2021, Intel made significant progress in the operation of its on-site water reclamation facilities. These innovative plants allow Intel to treat and reuse water within operations in systems like cooling towers and scrubbers, resulting in a substantial increase in water conservation that reduces the use of freshwater sources.
Intel have also been working on water restoration projects to go further than just ‘cancelling out’ water usage. An Intel-funded project incentivised farmers to switch out crops that require heavy irrigation in the summer months for barley, which is harvested earlier in the year and requires less water. As part of the project, an investment in a local malt house lowered the transaction costs involved in malting barley, which can then be sold to local breweries that previously had to use out-of-state suppliers.
And, in Bengaluru, India, Intel has funded two water restoration projects that, once fully implemented, will restore more than 100 million gallons each year between Dyavasandra Lake and Lake Nanjapura.
Fawn Bergen, corporate sustainability manager, said: “Intel was one of the first tech companies to make a public commitment around water restoration, but we are not alone in this. In the years since we announced our water commitment, we have had conversations with other companies who have come to us for help or advice with setting their own water stewardship goals. Although water challenges are local, the partnerships, collective actions and investments are global.”
Though new sites will increase its water footprint, Intel’s goal to achieve net-positive water globally by 2030 has not changed. It will need to conserve 60 billion gallons of water and restore more than 100 per cent of its global freshwater consumption. As of 2021, Intel says that it is 99 per cent of the way towards that goal.