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Intel, Dow Cut Water Use, Spend Millions on Public Infrastructure

Intel is spending more than $200 million on public infrastructure, including water and wastewater facilities, at its operations in Ocotillo, Ariz., and has partnered with the nearby City of Chandler to implement water usage technologies that benefit both the company and the local community, according to a report by CH2M HILL.

The report examines how water and wastewater costs affect business decisions across five industrial sectors: semiconductor manufacturing, thermal power generation, mining, chemicals, and oil and gas. It says an increasing demand for water resources is prompting companies to seek technological innovations and create partnerships to improve efficiency — both at their facilities and in the surrounding communities — and cut water-related costs.

The report uses Intel as a case study, and says the semiconductor chip giant today uses 1.25 to 1.5 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of ultrapure water, down from almost 2 gallons in the recent past. Ultrapure water acts as a solvent, removing impurities that can short out the hundreds of circuits in each chip.

The report also cites Dow Chemical Company’s water management strategies, and says that by implementing advanced water-cooling technology in 2010, the company is saving 1 billion gallons of water and $4 million annually.

Dow’s Freeport, Texas, operations reuse about 1.3 billion gallons of treated wastewater each year from the neighboring community of Lake Jackson, which has reduced the company’s freshwater demand in Freeport by 2.5 percent, the report says. This helped Dow reduce its freshwater demand by a total of 10 percent in 2011 at the Freeport site, according to CH2M HILL.

Also in 2011, Dow’s Freeport operations bought a 2,200-acre parcel of land to develop a reservoir, thus creating a more reliable water supply for the company and the local residents. Using water from the reservoir, Dow will provide county residents with fresh water during dry spells and droughts.

According to a June report from Ceres, Intel and Dow are among the 27 percent of companies assessed that made the connection between climate change and water risk in 2011, up from 10 percent in 2009.

CEOs from both companies were among the 45 that agreed to set targets on their water efficiency and wastewater management in factories and operations at the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

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