The AT&T Issue Brief Library

Our issue briefs provide a summary of key topics. 


Water Management

Stakeholder Engagement Topics: Company water use

Issue Summary

Water is a vital resource for environmental and social sustainability, and economic prosperity. 

Our Position

Water is essential to our operations, and water supply challenges can have a significant impact on how we operate. We have a responsibility to actively manage and reduce our water use wherever possible.  

2018 Key Performance Indicators
  2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Water Footprint (gallons)1 3.046B 3.089B 2.702B 2.600B 2.551B
Water Footprint (million cubic meters)1 11.49 11.69 11.62 11.50 11.37
Water Intensity (gallons/$ thousand revenue) 23.15 21.04 19.87 19.74 19.02
Water Intensity2 (gallons/petabyte of network traffic) 39,918 26,821 25,225 19,250 8,930

Our Action

Water is important to the communities where we operate and to our own operations. The network that forms the core of our business requires a controlled and cooled environment, and water is often a critical input to the cooling equipment we use.

All AT&T sites that are fed by municipal sources are metered for total volume of water withdrawal. AT&T does not withdraw from brackish or saltwater sources.

The AT&T Public Policy and Corporate Reputation Committee of the Board of Directors has oversight over all Citizenship & Sustainability issues, including environmental sustainability and the management of company water use. The Chief Sustainability Officer reports to the Board committee several times a year to provide updates and receive input on the direction of sustainability-related work at AT&T.

Our Operations

When we conducted our first water footprint in 2010, our water footprint was 3.4 billion gallons per year. In 2018, our footprint was 2.5 billion gallons.

  • Our top 125 water-consuming facilities constitute almost 50% of our overall water consumption; and
  • 40 of these 125 sites are in “high” or “very high” water stress regions, as determined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Global Water Tool.

Modeled after our Energy Scorecard, we have created a Water Scorecard to guide the tracking and management of water usage at our facilities and to identify water-saving opportunities using an intuitive grading system. The AT&T Water Scorecard utilizes the WBCSD Global Water Tool to evaluate water risk for the next 5 years.

Through our Water Scorecard, we evaluated our top 125 water-consuming sites and other strategic locations at the facility level across the country and found that cooling towers, which use evaporation to begin the mechanical cooling cycle, provide our greatest opportunities for water-savings and financial return. These pieces of equipment, which help chill large buildings, account for 28% of an office building’s daily water use on average3 — and they account for an even larger nonpage in electronics-laden buildings such as data centers.

Water Goal 

We are committed to reducing the water consumption of our company relative to data growth on our network by 60% by 2020 (using a 2013 baseline).4

Since 2013, when we set our first water goals, we have seen cumulative water savings of 510 million gallons. In addition, we realized 769 million kWh of annualized electricity savings associated with the introduction of free-air cooling projects and the reduction of mechanical refrigeration. The reduction of mechanical refrigeration is important to include, as those technologies consume a great deal of water.

Water Conservation

Our company provides connectivity for monitoring systems so that users can monitor their water use remotely and in real time. We use these solutions in our own operations, and work with customers to do the same.

We work with HydroPoint, a provider of smart water management solutions, to remotely monitor and manage irrigation systems in real-time. With products that retrofit existing systems, HydroPoint offers a cost-effective solution that reduces water consumption by an average of 40%.

Since launching the HydroPoint solution at 40 water facilities in 2017, AT&T has saved 60,000 gallons of water per year. Our partnership expanded in November 2018 to include 97 additional facilities, which will result in an estimated annual savings of more than $700,000 and 61 million gallons of water.

In 2018, AT&T also deployed an Enterprise Building Management System (EBMS) to 660 facilities. Leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data principles, our EBMS is designed to help property management personnel ensure facility equipment is operating optimally. This effort helps minimize mechanical cooling needs and reduces water consumption. In 2019, AT&T plans to deploy the EBMS to an additional 130 sites.

AT&T products and services can also help others manage their water use. As part of our partnership with HydroPoint, we’ve helped Lowe’s save nearly 650 million gallons of water each year. 

Supply Chain

Water is critical to our suppliers’ operations, and any impact they experience due to water-related risk may affect our future business operations. In 2018, we continued using the third-party TIA Sustainability Assessor tool to help suppliers launch and expand programs for efficient use of resources, including water.

For more information on all our efforts with suppliers, please see our Responsible Supply Chain issue brief.


Since the acquisition of WarnerMedia in June 2018 and the launch of Xandr in September 2018, we are continuing to integrate operationally and through our CSR reporting. For this reason, information for these 2 affiliates is not included in this brief, except where specifically referenced.

1This figure is equivalent to our water use for domestic operations, our freshwater consumption and our withdrawals from municipal sources.

2We define our water intensity as the water consumption of our company (numerator) relative to data growth on our network (denominator). In 2018, we included satellite traffic in our total network traffic (total production). Prior to this addition, our 2018 water intensity metric would have been 17,343 gallons/ petabyte of network traffic. Learn more about how we calculate network traffic for our water intensity in our Energy Management issue brief.


4For the purposes of tracking progress toward our goal, we are holding refrigerants, engines and portable generators steady in an effort to align performance with actual emissions changes and avoid an inaccurate representation of our progress.

Updated on: May 30, 2019