We recognize that fresh water supplies are an increasingly scarce resource in our world. Though our operations are not relatively water intensive, we nevertheless work to use water sparingly and responsibly in our operations. Primary water uses include dust control and soil compaction at our landfills; cleaning and maintenance in our fleets; and drinking and sanitation in our facilities.
Since our facilities are spread throughout North America, water-risk assessments are conducted regionally and sometimes locally, depending on the risk level for potential water scarcity. Using the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Global Water Tool, we have found that 27 percent of our market areas, comprising approximately 840 facilities, are located in water-stressed regions.
Water-related weather patterns also present another risk. Because land-based facilities are exposed to the elements, landscape vegetation can be a challenge in times of drought or flood – and virtually all our landfills in North America are vulnerable to these weather events. Flooding can impede the collection of landfill gas by filling collection wells with water, while drought can reduce the rate of the process of organic material decay, for which water is essential. This creates roadblocks for the productivity of the landfill gas-to-energy portion of our business.
Tracking Our Usage
We are planning to develop a more systematic approach to data collection and, at the same time, better understand our water use by establishing a consumption baseline based on our actual use. Our water scarcity mapping primarily uses the World Business Council for Sustainable Development global water tool and the World Resources Institute water stress definition to identify vulnerable areas where our facilities and operations are located. This is done through our proprietary GIS service mapping called WAVE. We use Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines to estimate potable water use based on “gallons per employee per day” methodology.
Our water management practices have been enhanced recently through the use of a third-party vendor to provide a higher level of oversight into our utility data that helps sites better measure and manage consumption. The vendor notifies facilities when there is an unexpected consumption spike or higher-than-normal usage. For example, a deviation report was sent to alert our Mill Seat Landfill in Bergen, New York, of a spike earlier this year. As a result, the landfill was able to identify the issue immediately, replace a malfunctioning valve, and monitor its effectiveness.