Picture Niagara Falls, one of the great waterfalls on Earth. Now keep your eyes on that thundering cascade for a full 26 minutes. That amount of water — 1 billion gallons — is the basis of a new Intel milestone. The new water recycling plant at Intel’s Ronler Acres campus in Hillsboro, Oregon, recently surpassed the billion-gallon mark, underscoring the company’s global efforts to reuse the water it needs for advanced computer chip manufacturing. Once recycled, the water goes into scrubbers, cooling towers and other equipment, creating a huge loop of reclaim and reuse.
The Oregon facility is a low-slung but highly complex 12-acre network of piping (15 miles’ worth), electrical conduit (102 miles’ worth) and settling tanks (the largest is bigger than three Olympic-size swimming pools). To ensure it runs efficiently, the company built the plant to produce a firehose of information — its 24/7 operation is monitored by nearly 40,000 real-time data sensors. Intel’s Hillsboro water recycling plant is the company’s largest in the world now operating — the only other one of comparable size is in Ocotillo, Arizona, which is still in its startup phase.
Intel’s billion-gallon milestone in Oregon precedes events focused on the climate currently underway at the U.N. General Assembly. The U.N. reports that water – its availability or scarcity – “is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change.”
“Organizations small and large must come together and implement innovative ways to conserve water, one of our most precious resources,” says Suzanne Fallender, Intel’s director of Corporate Responsibility. “Individual action to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, like climate change, isn’t enough.”
Intel’s global commitment to wise water use — through a combination of reuse and recycling, conservation and community-based restoration — is a key element of the company’s 2030 Sustainability Goals. The company has committed to “be a global leader in sustainability and enable our customers and other to reduce their environmental impact through our actions and technology.”
Over the past decade, Intel beat its previous goal to reduce its 2020 water use to below 2010 levels. Over that 10-year timeframe, the company’s global water conservation and related efforts saved an estimated 44 billion gallons of water. That figure dwarfs even the recent Oregon plant milestone and translates to a savings of 19 hours of water pouring over Niagara Falls.