This “My Turn” appeared in today’s Scottsdale Republic:
How using less water is good for business in Arizona, region
Water is without a doubt the lifeblood of the West and this is nowhere truer than in Arizona. The total economic value of the Colorado River to Arizona was recently quantified in a study conducted by economists at ASU, revealing that 60 percent of Arizona’s gross state product ($185 billion in economic activity) is tied to the river, as are over 2.1 million jobs and $108 billion in wages.
The Grand Canyon State will likely be the first to feel the pinch of water shortage as drought, overuse and climate change continue their grip on the Colorado River.
In fact, Pamela Pickard, president of the Central Arizona Project Board, predicted last year that by 2016 or 2017 CAP will be faced with a 61 percent chance of a shortage being declared that would impact their allotment of Colorado River water.
The good news is that many cost-effective and easily implemented solutions to address our water challenges are available to us right now. Smart conservation and efficiency projects are up and running in businesses of all shapes and sizes throughout the Colorado River basin.
Recently, major corporations like Coca- Cola and Caesars Entertainment, and water providers and municipalities from across the seven basin states shared their best practices and innovations addressing water conservation and supply issues at two Business of Water Summits convened by Protect the Flows, a coalition of over 1,100 businesses in the seven Colorado River basin states that seek to maintain a healthy and flowing Colorado River system.
Participants and speakers from Arizona included Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce; Pamela Pickard from the Central Arizona Project Board and Bruce Hallin of Salt River Project and Coconino County Supervisor Elizabeth Archuleta.
The water-saving solutions presented showed that companies benefit from taking action on water in the following ways:
- Cutting costs and reducing waste.
- Reducing risks in operations.
- Driving revenues by developing breakthrough products that are more water efficient.
- Enhancing brand value by building a positive corporate reputation.
For example, to achieve its goal of “water neutrality,” Coca-Cola has reduced its water usage in its North American business by 6 billion gallons since 2005, and by 8 percent globally since 2010.
The company treats and reuses wastewater to clean and cool its plants, engages its employees to restore watersheds in California and invests in improving agricultural irrigation and infrastructure in Arizona.
Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, by deploying water-smart technologies, implementing improved operational efficiencies, educating employees and allowing guests to make smart water choices during their visits, has voluntarily reduced its water consumption company-wide since 2008 by 18 percent on a square footage basis, resulting in approximately $1.8 million in annual savings.
And to reduce their customers’ water costs over the life of their homes, KB HOME, with communities throughout Arizona, installs WaterSense fixtures and appliances in all its homes, saving homeowners up to 30,000 gallons of water annually compared to older homes.
The company has also built the first “net zero energy and water” home which re-uses gray water from the home to irrigate the yard. The home is 30 percent more water efficient than other homes on the market.
Protect the Flows has amassed case studies and best practices on private sector water efficiency and stewardship that document how conservation of water and the Colorado River is good for the environment and good for business too.
The companies in our network are more than willing to share with others what we know about water-saving practices. We are all in this together and working together is the only way we can make a more sustainable water future for our state and region a reality.
Nicole Patterson is Arizona state director for Protect the Flows.