How do Water Restoration Certificates work?
The term “net positive water” is confusing. How can any operation result in an increase of water in a certain region? As we discussed in a previous blog post, CyrusOne achieves this status of net positive water through the purchase of Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) Water Restoration Certificates® (WRCs). BEF offers these certificates to companies as a way for them to offset their water footprints through a variety of local projects conducted by BEF’s project partners, which are usually nonprofit organizations. These projects include a variety of water conservation or improvement methods, including irrigation efficiency improvements, wetland restoration, groundwater replenishment, and more. One Water Restoration Certificate is equal to restoring or improving 1,000 gallons of water. But how do they actually work?
Rather than creating new water, you can think of these certificates as a guarantee of preventing future loss of water that would have otherwise occurred if the credit had not been purchased, or as a restoration of previously contaminated water that would not be remediated otherwise. In other words, an organization that purchases a WRC gets credit for “producing” this water because had they not purchased the credit, the water would have been consumed or would have remained harmful or unusable. BEF WRCs are third-party verified by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Watercourse Engineering, so we can be confident that our purchase of these certificates is resulting in positive environmental change.
Our Chandler, Arizona campus was the first to achieve net positive water status. For this data center, we purchased certificates to restore flows to the San Pedro River by helping farmers switch to high-efficiency irrigation systems. The San Pedro River is of great ecological importance for migratory birds, fish, and vegetation, but it experiences chronic low flows that are partially due to overuse of groundwater which feeds the river. To address this ecological crisis, BEF supports a project by the Arizona Land and Water Trust that works to develop alternative management techniques for irrigated pasture lands located along the river. Together, we can prevent significant amounts of groundwater from being pumped near the San Pedro River, keeping water in the river and helping both local communities and ecosystems.
We purchased WRCs to achieve net positive water status for the second time for our data center in Carrollton, Texas. These WRCs funded a project that supports water flow management and restoration to the Conejos and upper Rio Grande Rivers. The Conejos River sustains habitats that many birds, elk, fish, and other wildlife rely on. The project will repair aging irrigation equipment, decreasing the water lost in the process and allowing more flexibility in flow delivery to local farmers. The removal of fish barriers will reconnect nine miles of aquatic habitat, providing benefits to fish and other wildlife. The project will also reconnect floodplains, stabilize riverbanks, and plant beneficial species along riverbanks. These actions will ensure that the local streams will not go dry, and that water quality and groundwater recharge will improve.
We were also proud to become the founding sponsor for a water restoration project for the San Saba River in Texas. We purchased these WRCs to achieve net positive water status for our Allen, Texas data center (the third campus to achieve this status). This specific WRC funded a project to prevent the removal of 177 acre-feet of water from the San Saba River by agricultural operations. The project will pay farmers not to irrigate hay fields and pecan orchards during low-flow conditions, helping to maintain sufficient flow through the San Saba River. Doing so will mitigate water scarcity concerns and habitat loss for mussels, fish, and other wildlife in this region, while ensuring that the farmers can still support themselves. This project will also help sustain the local economy and lifestyle of those who depend on this critical river.
WRCs are just one of our water conservation tools, but it is important to understand how they work so that we can verify our positive impact on the communities surrounding our facilities in water-stressed areas. Matching our purchase of certificates to specific projects in the regions where our data centers are located helps us mitigate the effects our actions are having on both local water supplies and local biodiversity and give even more back. The watersheds where we operate net positive water facilities are better off than if we had never built there. Now that’s being a good neighbor.