- Environmental Compliance
- Environmental Management
- Water Use
- Water Preservation
- Paper Consumption
Our company history is built around clean water. The business started with clean water projects and continues to bring clean water to many communities across the globe. Given this history, we commit to conserving water in both spheres of our company’s activities: the facilities that we manage ourselves for our own business needs and the water treatment or supply facilities that we operate on behalf of our clients.
Consistent with the firm’s commitment to conserve natural resources and water, as stated in the CH2M Sustainability Policy, we continue to track and report on water consumption for facilities that CH2M owns or operates on behalf of its clients. As a service provider, CH2M’s direct water use consists of the water consumed in our corporate headquarters and the area offices from which we operate worldwide. Our ability to monitor and report our water use depends on office location. In most of our leased space, for example, we do not directly pay water bills or manage the facilities, so it is difficult to implement conservation technologies or quantify the results of water conservation efforts. We do, however, directly measure water use when we can, such as at our corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado, where we operate our facilities as part of the leasing terms.
CH2M views conservation as an ongoing process. We will continue to incorporate advancements in water-efficient technology in decision making for our direct operations. We have long encouraged practices that use water wisely, which aligns with company values. As part of our environmental policies, we purchase water- and energy-saving appliances for our kitchen areas. We have also eliminated bottled water in vending machines at our corporate headquarters. We seek to avoid the additional environmental footprint needed to package and transport water. Instead we use the safe, healthy, municipal water systems, which we design and construct every day, and that do not require the use of additional resources.
CH2M uses both potable and reclaimed, non-potable water to support the water needs of our corporate headquarters. Potable water is used to meet human and building cooling needs, while non-potable water is used for irrigation and landscaping.
Water use at the corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado, has been documented since 2008. In the spring of 2013, all urinals in the men’s restrooms across campus were replaced from conventional 1‑gallon-per-flush systems to pint-flush urinals (0.125 gallon per flush). This change helped to significantly reduce potable water consumption on campus, dropping the potable water use on campus from 6,247,000 gallons (23,647 cubic meters) in 2013 and down to 5,699,000 (21,573 cubic meters) in 2014. Total potable water consumption on campus decreased again in 2015 by 320,000 gallons (1,211 cubic meters) from 2014 to a total of 5,379,000 gallons (20,362 cubic meters).
In an arid climate like Denver, Colorado, implementing creative water-saving irrigation solutions is imperative. Reusing reclaimed water for irrigation reduces demand on surface water and groundwater supplies. In 2015, non-potable water consumption remained relatively steady with 2014 values, recording a slight increase of 103,000 gallons (390 cubic meters), which corresponds to a 2.5 percent increase.
The past few years have seen a decrease in the campus population, with a corresponding decrease in water use. Implementation of the pint-flush urinals also resulted in per capita water decreases. In 2015, we appear to have crossed a threshold with per capita savings. The per capita water use in 2015 was 4,246 gallons (16.1 cubic meters), which is the highest per capita value since we began tracking the data in 2008. Population at our corporate headquarters has decreased compared to previous years, yet the campus cooling water use has remained relatively consistent. This has resulted in the total water use on campus being divided by a fewer number of people, leading to higher per capita values.
Water Use in Europe
In Europe, our objective is to reduce water consumption, following good practice guidance, and monitor both actual absolute reductions and the ratio of water per employee. Our overall goal was to reduce water consumption per employee to less than 6.4 cubic meters (1,690 gallons) by the end of 2015.
In the United Kingdom, we recorded water consumption data at 12 offices. We have continued to review water consumption at nine offices in mainland Europe. Actual data were recorded at four of these offices and estimated at the remaining five.
We do not use large volumes of water compared to other business sectors. We have reduced our consumption per employee, from 8.2 cubic meters (2,166 gallons) in 2012 to 7.3 cubic meters (1,928 gallons) in 2013, a reduction of 10 percent. This figure reduced to 6.9 cubic meters (1,823 gallons) in 2014 and has further reduced to 6.0 cubic meters (1,588 gallons) in 2015. This means that our 2015 consumption was 0.4 cubic meter (105 gallons) below good practice benchmarks. We will endeavor to maintain this performance in 2016.
Water Conservation Strategies for Clients
Beyond our office facilities, CH2M’s culture of sustainability reflects our approaches to delivering consulting, program management, design, construction, and operations solutions for our clients. Our water experts work with clients to develop proactive strategies for sustainable water management, including water supply, stormwater management, and sanitation. In partnership with our clients, we help optimize efficiencies in their processes to reduce material consumption and generate positive financial metrics, as well as social benefits.
CH2M provides full-service operations, maintenance, and management to municipal and industrial sites, treating approximately 6.4 million cubic meters (1.7 billion gallons) of water and wastewater every day through our Operations Management group. Recognizing the importance of developing best management practices for sustainable operations, CH2M integrates sustainability into our operations and maintenance processes to mitigate the environmental impacts of our services, enhance and protect ecosystems, and actively engage in the communities that we serve.
Our sustainability practices were formalized in 2010, with a sustainability pilot program focused on our North American Western Region facilities. Throughout these projects, we have varying levels of control of the operations, from simply “turning the dials” to implementing facility improvements and upgrades. Our program is focused on engaging passionate CH2M employee champions at each facility, working with clients to find ways to improve operations in whatever area is most appropriate for that site. The National Association of Water Companies recognized our program with a first place Innovation Award in 2011. Building off the initial successes of this program, we expanded the sustainability program across our Operations Management North American portfolio.
We continued to track wastewater treatment performance across the operations management portfolio of projects. A comprehensive look at the overall quantity and quality of wastewater treated in 2015 at the 85 client water resource recovery facilities managed throughout North America shows that we treated 337 million cubic meters (89.1 billion gallons) of wastewater for the entire year.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for site-specific treatment vary across our portfolio of facilities. Standard NPDES permits require that 85 percent of all biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), or organic matter, is removed in the treatment process to prevent oxygen depletion in the streams. The average BOD process removal for our client facilities in 2015 was 98 percent, benchmarking our treatment averages at 13 percent above the NPDES national average.
Standard NPDES permits also mandate an 85 percent removal rate of all total suspended solids (TSS), or organic or inorganic solid material, during the treatment process to mitigate adverse impacts to aquatic life in receiving streams. The average TSS process removal for our client facilities in 2015 was 97 percent, putting our treatment averages at 12 percent above the NPDES national averages.
Additionally, 83 million cubic meters (22 billion gallons) of this effluent was beneficially reused, representing 25 percent of the total wastewater treated in 2015.
Day-to-day treatment plant operation is conducted in collaboration with our clients, and we respond to their management and budget directives. In this shared operational control environment, we have rich opportunities to bring local innovations to a broader group of facilities across the United States, where these innovations fit with our clients and their communities.