AT&T Asks California Employees To Reduce Water Use While Drought Continues
Blog Entry by Gina-Marie Cheeseman in Corporate Social Responsibility
Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 11:00pm
(3BL/JustMeans) - California is experiencing a third consecutive year of drought. In January, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a State of Emergency proclamation, which directed state officials to do what is necessary to prepare for drought conditions. In the proclamation, Governor Brown called on all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. One company is taking Governor Brown seriously: AT&T California President Ken McNeely has asked for the company’s 34,000 California employees to reduce their company water usage by 30 percent.
McNeely asked employees to take some specific steps to reduce water usage. These steps include not washing the company’s California fleet of over 15,000 vehicles, cutting facility landscape irrigation in half, and turning off decorative water fountains or features at corporate buildings. AT&T employees already have begun implementing water conservation measures in order to reduce the company’s overall California water usage. AT&T has a nationwide initiative called Do One Thing which calls on employees to reduce their own water usage. The initiative has resulted in 19 million gallons of water being saved in the last two years.
AT&T has the goal of saving 150 million gallons of water by the end of 2015. To help meet its goal, AT&T and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) spent a year collaborating on ways that the company could save water. As a result of the project, a set of tools was developed, called the Building Water Efficiency toolkit, for U.S. commercial buildings to collectively save up to 28 billion gallons of water a year. The potential water savings U.S. companies can realize through using the toolkit is 14 to 40 percent a year.
AT&T’s call for employees to reduce water usage comes at a critical time for California. The state’s rivers and reservoirs are below record lows, and statewide groundwater levels have significantly decreased. The statewide snowpack’s water content is about 29 percent of the normal average for this time of year. The state’s water supplies have decreased to alarming levels, and 2014 is projected to be the driest on record for California. The drought puts drinking water supplies in many California communities at risk and less crops can be produced.
The state of California has a network of 80 year-old water transport canals that move trillions of gallons of water every year. Through the network, water is collected and transported west and south from the High Sierra, which irrigates 3.75 million acres, over 33,000 farms and serves 24 million residents. The state water authorities have anticipated water deliveries this year will be less than half of the network’s capacity. Total water storage in the state is at an 11-year low. If drought conditions persist, groundwater levels in the Central Valley, which produces food to feed the nation, are likely to reach historic lows.
AT&T will not be the only company to reduce water usage in California. Governor Brown has directed state agencies to use less water and has called on all state agencies to implement water usage reduction plans. These plans include a moratorium on new, non-essential landscaping at state facilities and on state highways and roads.