Getting smart about H2O

By Pia Hahn
December 19th, 2013

Please join me in welcoming our newest blogger Sustainability Strategist for Wells Fargo’s Corporate Properties Group (CPG) Curt Radkin. An architect by training, he now leads strategy development with corporate leaders across the company to engage in sustainable practices that will minimize the environmental impact of Wells Fargo’s 100 million square foot corporate real estate portfolio, which accounts for 85 percent of Wells Fargo’s GHG emissions. Curt leads research into innovative technologies to enhance the environmental performance of Wells Fargo properties and will share a recent success with our company’s water conservation efforts. (PH)

Radkin headshot

Curt Radkin

At Wells Fargo, we are working hard to conserve resources and lessen our impact on the environment. Efficient use of water is important to the communities we serve, and we’re working toward a company-wide goal of reducing our water use by 45 percent by the year 2020.

Through our research we found one area of our operation offers particularly significant water savings: the landscaping at our 9,000 stores. So we launched a pilot program in fall 2012 at 40 stores in California, Florida and Texas which returned astonishing results. Together, those stores saved more than 30 million gallons of water – and nearly $250,000 in utility costs – in just one year.

In the pilot, we used a new “smart” irrigation system, which uses a controller to replace a timer-based system that simply watered by time or set intervals on the clock, often resulting in over-watering. The new irrigation system, which uses a controller with a wireless transmitter and a coffee-cup-size weather station, monitors rainfall and a host of other details like soil and plant types. Using the data collected onsite, the smart system delivers water to our landscaping if and when it’s needed, and only in the amount needed.

Smart irrigation photo

New smart irrigation system

Because of the pilot’s success, we expanded the program to an additional 600 stores nationwide and selected locations with past water bills indicating the biggest potential for savings. At all these locations, we now expect to save more than 300 million gallons of water every year. That’s a reduction of more than 50 percent, and it adds up to a savings of more than $1.4 million in utility costs per year.

At Wells Fargo, we’re committed to helping communities succeed. We believe that, when those communities do well, we all benefit. As a leader in environmental sustainability, we’re committed to finding new ways to minimize our energy and water consumption and to help others to do the same.

Because of the program’s success at our retail stores, we have launched a second pilot at 12 of our large corporate campuses. Through eight months of this pilot, we have saved more than 20 million gallons of water. Eventually, we plan to install smart irrigation controls at our 3,000 retail banking stores that have irrigation systems and all of our corporate campuses, and we believe we could save more than a billion gallons of water each year.

This program has proven that we can save water and cut utility costs significantly, and that it can be replicated and scaled up. Wells Fargo is proud of the success of our smart irrigation program, and we hope that other organizations looking for cost-effective ways to reduce their environmental impact will consider installing these systems on their properties.

Tags:   employee   energy   innovation   LEED   operations   water   
Pia Hahn

Pia Hahn

Pia joined the Social Responsibility Communications team in September 2012 to help share environmental stories across the company and in our communities as we continue to invest in environmental solutions in our communities.

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Comments

Matton January 10, 2014 at 8:12 pm:

What’s the name of the company that installs these “smart” systems?

Pia Hahnon January 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm:

Hi Matt,
Please email us directly at Environmental.Affairs@wellsfargo.com with your contact information and we can discuss.

Lou Bendonon July 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm:

Smart controllers are great but they are only a starting point but the system needs to be efficient to really save water which requires an audit. Are you using efficient nozzles? How can you manage what you do not measure? Landscape water budgets must be set up for each of your sites to eliminate waste. Have your contractor read meters weekly, track usage and report consumption data to your facilities manager. Audits will define where you can find additional savings from adjusting your sprays or replacing what you have with efficient emitters. The AWWA estimates that we use 60% of all urban water on landscapes and 50% is wasted. The cost of upgrades and water budgeting pay for themselves. In California and in all severely water stressed states throughout the SW, Florida, Texas etc., we have no water to waste. We all need to do our part. Cudos to Wells Fargo. There is more to do.

Pia Hahnon October 22, 2014 at 9:02 pm:

Lou, your insights are spot on. We have made great progress on water use reduction, yet there is more to do. Smart metering and flow metering technologies are becoming cost-effective strategies to layer on top of smart irrigation. We are looking for effective ways to deploy these approaches where they make sense. We currently audit the smart irrigation sites quarterly and this is a critical element of the program. Thanks for your thoughts.

Curt Radkin
Corporate Properties Group

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