“Facebook’s water goal represents the leading practice for operational water targets,” said a representative from the World Resources Institute. “Facebook successfully strikes a balance between a policy for the entire company and effective prioritization of and responsiveness to local water challenges. The use of projected water consumption is especially noteworthy — more companies and industries need to follow this example and set forward-looking targets to be resilient in an increasingly uncertain future. Facebook’s water goal helps pave the way for the ambitious corporate targets — and actions — that are necessary for more sustainable water use.”
Since 2017, Facebook has been investing in water restoration projects in high-water stress watersheds where we operate. We evaluate water risk using the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Atlas as well as our own expertise in sustainability and conservation. The water restoration projects we’ve supported shore up water resources at the basin level to address water scarcity, modernize agricultural irrigation systems, improve water quality, provide access to water for people, and more.
We primarily look for water restoration projects related to conservation and ecosystem restoration, water supply and reliability, water access, sanitation and hygiene, and water quality. Further, our water restoration projects are third-party verified, and we use the Volumetric Benefits Accounting Methodology to measure our impact. We will report on progress toward this goal in our annual Sustainability Report.
However, we also understand that sometimes the most impactful contributions to the sustainability of a watershed go beyond projects that return volumetric benefits. That’s why we are also investing in capacity-building projects that might have a catalytic effect in watersheds around the world. These projects could include supporting local environmental nonprofits, governance, research, and other non-volume-generating activities.
We believe in taking a systems approach to understanding shared water challenges. We both leverage nature-based solutions and work with utilities to improve water infrastructure in order to restore water resources to the basins where we operate. When selecting water restoration projects, we prioritize those that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, improve climate resilience, strengthen biodiversity, and address social and environmental justice.
Water stewardship, which the UN Industrial Development Organization defines as, “using water in a way that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial,” has always been an important part of our sustainability program. Our data centers, which use water to cool servers and maintain optimal humidity, are among the most water-efficient in the world. We look for innovative ways to minimize our water use in operational locations that face environmental challenges such as high levels of dust, extreme humidity, or elevated salinity.
A number of our global offices, including our headquarters in Menlo Park, California, utilize on-site recycled water systems. We aim to reduce our water use by installing efficient plumbing fixtures and planting low-water-use plants that reduce irrigation needs.
Our efforts to source more renewable energy have also reduced our water usage. Through Facebook’s renewable energy procurement, we have found significant water savings compared with sourcing energy from the standard utility energy mix, since renewable energy sources require less water to generate electricity than fossil fuels. In 2020, the amount of renewable energy we sourced led to a savings of 1.4 billion cubic meters (over 380 billion gallons) of water — enough to fill 560,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. As part of our commitment to transparency, Facebook is also one of the few companies to publicly report data on water embedded in energy procurement.
“How we manage and use fresh water will dictate our future,” said Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. “It’s increasingly important for businesses to assess their watershed impacts, identify regional water stewardship needs, and work collaboratively with communities, governments, and nonprofits to ensure that people, economies, and ecosystems have enough clean water to flourish. Facebook’s water-positive commitment provides compelling evidence that companies are increasingly stepping up to play an important role in building awareness and solutions that can mitigate water stress in key areas.”
Facebook is already participating in 14 water restoration projects in six states — Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Utah — and has plans to add many more.
These projects include:
- Funding to support the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) System Conversation Project to conserve water and stabilize declining water levels in Lake Mead in Arizona.
- Supporting the planting of 70,000 trees on 280 acres of private forest land in California to help restore areas burned by wildfires in 2018.
- In 2017, partnering with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Trout Unlimited to increase flows and facilitate groundwater recharge in the Upper Rio Grande in New Mexico by using new tools to flexibly manage, store, and deliver water when it’s needed most.
- Contributing to an Aquifer Storage and Recovery project in the city of Prineville, Oregon, that uses the city’s natural underground storage to store water during wetter winters and recover it during summer months.
- Partnering with Ducks Unlimited and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to build a wetland treatment system within 206 acres of new wetlands that will be constructed in the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area to provide water quality and recreational benefits to the area.
- Partnering with the city of Eagle Mountain, Utah, to improve the water resiliency of the community water supply. We have constructed a system that allows Eagle Mountain to reuse our treated operational process wastewater to irrigate landscaping at city parks.
It can’t be overstated how vital water is to the world. Yet communities all over the globe are increasingly finding their water resources being put at risk because of climate change, extreme weather events, pollution, and other threats. Facebook is taking a rigorous approach to water restoration and helps others do the same — not just for our own operations, but also for the health of the communities we serve and the ecosystems around us.