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Google, eBay, Adobe Innovating to Save Water in California Drought

Amid one of the worst droughts in California history, Google, Adobe, eBay and several other technology companies are embracing innovation to reduce water consumption, the Guardian reports.

Google is considering installing new technology such as urinal cakes containing enzymes that calcify urine so that toilets only have to be flushed a few times each day. This could save around 500,000 gallons of water a year.

The Guardian says the tech giant also is looking at ways to reduce water used to maintain the landscaping at its corporate campuses, including "hydrozoning" — grouping together plants with similar water needs and installing sensors to monitor irrigation use and detect leaks. Last year, the company saved 9 million gallons of water at its Mountain View, Calif. campus through water recycling.

"Since we know we have more people using facilities like showers and washing machines than most corporate campuses, we've always been aware that we have the unique opportunity — and responsibility — to help them do so with as little waste as possible," Anthony Ravitz, the green team lead for Google's real estate and workplace services, told the Guardian.

Adobe says it has cut water consumption in its San Francisco Bay Area buildings by 62 percent since 2000 by installing low-flow faucets, waterless urinals and using drought-resistant native plants and drip-irrigation systems. The company also has switched off fountains at its San Jose headquarters that taps recycled groundwater, redirecting it to help improve flows to the nearby Guadalupe River.

Data centers are some of the largest water hogs, and several Silicon Valley firms are implementing water-conservation programs. Adobe is looking into how to change its climate-control systems to use recycled water for cooling.

"Additionally, we are looking at ways to recapture rain water, reclaim our own waste water, and use recycled water (if available) from the cities where we have operations," Adobe told the Guardian.

Likewise, eBay has installed cooling fans among the rows of computer servers while switching to passive cooling systems. In 2013, the company began using recycled water on part of its Mountain View campus landscaping, saving 9 million gallons of water. The company already employs smart irrigation systems that respond to changes in the weather.

Solar panels consume large quantities of water, largely for cleaning purposes. SunPower now uses robots to reduce the water used to clean hundreds of thousands of solar panels installed at the photovoltaic power plants it develops. Last year, SunPower acquired Greenbotics, a company that makes Roomba-like robots that glide over solar panels at night, cleaning as they go — the system has cut water consumption at one California photovoltaic power plant by 90 percent.

SunPower says it is looking at additional strategies to cut corporate water use to meet California's voluntary 20 percent target in addition to a company commitment to cut water use at its worldwide facilities by 10 percent every year.

Many scientists agree that California’s severe drought is being exacerbated by climate change. Apple, SolarCity, San Diego International Airport, Sungevity and Sapphire Energy recently joined more than 120 California-based companies in signing the Climate Declaration, a business leader call to action that urges federal and state policymakers to seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change.

In related water news, Levi Strauss recently announced that it has developed a process for using 100 percent recycled water in parts of its jeans production — an industry first — to reduce its impact on the world's water resources. The process is the result of a new third-party water recycling verification that aims to reduce the impact of garment production on freshwater resources. It is being used in one of the company’s primary Chinese factories, which bleaches, dyes and stonewashes garments to achieve particular looks or feels.


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