Understanding a watershed’s complex issues
US technology giant Google has been recognised for its commitment to water stewardship across its campuses in US and Ireland.
The Alphabet-owned company is the first tech company to achieve the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) certification.
This is awarded to organisations that understand the complex issues and opportunities within the watersheds they operate, including Mountain View and Los Angeles, California and Dublin, Ireland.
Google also demonstrated that it worked with local stakeholders to achieve five outcomes of water stewardship, including:
- Sustainable water balance
- Good water quality
- Good water governance
- Healthy status of important water-related areas (rivers, marshes, etc.)
- Safe water access, sanitation and hygiene for everyone (WASH).
Equipping tools to identify water risk
To help rank and prioritise sites based on water risk, Google partnered with companies such as consultancy, LimnoTech, and used tools including WWF's Water Risk Filter and WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.
Addressing water stewardship challenges, the organisation proved to create an on-site water stewardship team, used efficient fixtures, managed stormwater runoff, as well as collecting air-conditioning condensate and rainwater for irrigation.
Google’s datacentres have come under scrutiny in the past for the vast amounts of water consumed, mainly for cooling purposes.
In 2019 alone, Google requested, or was granted, more than 2.3 billion gallons of water data centres across three US states, according to a report by the Independent.
In the company's 2019 Environmental Report, Google cited "innovative cooling options" such as using seawater in Finland, to industrial canal water in Belgium and air cooling in Ireland.
By the end of 2018, the organisation said it achieved a 3 per cent reduction in potable water intensity at its Bay Area headquarter (equivalent saving of 42 million litres (11 million gallons)).
However, data from the report showed Google’s annual water consumption increased from 2,500 (million gallons) in 2016, to 4,170 (million gallons) in 2018.
Initiating internal and external conversations
“Water is local with each site facing its own unique risks and challenges,” said Eddie Corwin, sustainability manager for Google’s real estate.
“The Alliance for Water Stewardship certification provided the framework for aligning our existing water efficiency efforts with the ambitious water stewardship outcomes.”
"The certification helped initiate conversations for our water stewardship journey."
Corwin added that the certification helped initiate the “internal and external conversations necessary for embarking on our water stewardship journey”.
Matt Howard, director at the AWS North America, added: “A majority of companies recognise that sustainability is important but going from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’ takes both strategy and dedication.”