AT&T Issue Briefs

Our issue briefs provide additional details on topics identified as most important by our stakeholders. View all the issue briefs on the Reporting Library for a comprehensive overview or choose an issue in the drop-down menu.

 

 

 

Our Position

 

Water is essential to our business, 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.


2020 Key Performance Indicators
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
Absolute (gallons)¹ ²
20162.702B 
20172.600B 
20182.551B 
20193.011B 
20202.678B 
Absolute (million cubic meters)¹ ²
201611.62 
201711.50 
201811.37 
201911.40 
202010.13 
Water Intensity (gallons/$ thousand revenue)¹
201619.87 
201719.74 
201819.02 
201916.63 
202015.59 
Water Intensity (gallons/petabyte of network traffic)¹ ³
201624,316 
201721,693 
20188,930 
20199,758 
2020-- 
Water Intensity (gallons/individual subscriber)¹ ³
201614.86 
201713.81 
201812.69 
201914.12 
202011.75 

 

1 2016–2018 data inclusive of AT&T Communications, U.S. operations. 2019–2020 data inclusive of AT&T Communications and WarnerMedia’s U.S. operations. 

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

3 From 2016 to 2019, we defined our water intensity as the water consumption of our company (numerator) relative to data traffic on our network (denominator), including satellite traffic. After achieving our 2020 water and energy intensity goals in 2019, we have transitioned to intensity metrics relative to the number of our subscribers (North America wireless, wireline voice and domestic broadband), as identified in our 2020 Annual Report.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Goals

 

 

TOPIC: Water Use in Stressed Areas

 

 

2030 TARGET: Achieve 15% reduction (2019 base year) in U.S. water use in areas of high/extremely high-water stress.

 

 

PROGRESS: Launched goal. 
We set this goal in May 2021 and will begin reporting progress in 2022.

 

 

 

Our Action

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

Governance

We provide information about energy and water use, efficiency projects and renewable energy purchases to AT&T’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Governance Council, which is comprised of senior executives and officers with responsibility for the business areas most linked to current CSR priorities. This council is led by our Chief Sustainability Officer, who works with the Public Policy and Corporate Reputation Committee of the AT&T Board of Directors to achieve a wide range of specific, sustainable business objectives. Today, the Vice President of Implementation, Provisioning & Optimization within the Network Engineering & Operations (NEO) organization leads several team members that oversee these efforts:

  • The Energy Team oversees a broad range of energy and water programs, including deregulated purchase strategies, regulated rate optimization, authorship of corporate energy and infrastructure policy directives, renewable energy purchases and development and implementation of scaled energy efficiency and energy conservation measures.
  • The NEO Team optimizes our network by identifying opportunities for energy-efficient designs and components that result in energy and water consumption reductions. This team also optimizes our networks by identifying opportunities for asset decommission including managing how we release and power down our legacy data platforms, regional legacy equipment and end-office switching equipment. By right-sizing network assets, we lower our energy demands.

These teams manage AT&T’s network resource optimization, network capacity engineering, and in-network operational support, energy and water management efforts as well as their associated budgets.

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

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

Our first water footprint assessment, conducted in 2010, determined that our operations used 3.4 billion gallons of water per year. In 2020, our overall footprint was 2.678 billion gallons. 4 4 Our 2010 water footprint assessment was inclusive of AT&T Communications, U.S. operations. Our 2020 footprint is inclusive of AT&T Communications and WarnerMedia’s U.S. operations. Analysis of our water footprint shows that our water use is concentrated in a small number of facilities – our top 125 water-consuming facilities constitute approximately 60.9% of our overall water consumption. 
AT&T’s Water Scorecard, modeled after our Energy Scorecard, tracks water use at our facilities and helps identify water-saving opportunities using a grading system. We use the Scorecard to evaluate water risk on an annual basis. We also developed a Water Scorecard for the top 7 water-consuming WarnerMedia facilities. 5 5 In May 2021, we entered into an agreement to combine our WarnerMedia segment, subject to certain exceptions, with a subsidiary of Discovery, Inc. The transaction is subject to approval by Discovery shareholders and customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals.  

Through our Water Scorecards, we evaluated our top 125 water-consuming sites and other strategic locations at the facility level across the U.S. We found that cooling towers, which use evaporation to begin the mechanical cooling cycle, provide a significant opportunity for water-savings and financial return. These pieces of equipment, which help chill large buildings, account for a considerable amount of a building’s daily water use, especially in electronics-laden buildings such as central offices and data centers. 

Water Goal
We exceeded our goal to reduce AT&T’s water consumption relative to data growth on our network 60% by 2020 (using a 2013 baseline) a year ahead of schedule. 6 6 For the purposes of tracking progress toward our goal, we held refrigerants, engines and portable generators steady in an effort to align performance with actual emissions changes and avoid an inaccurate representation of our progress. In 2020, we further reduced our water consumption by 11% compared to 2019. And, in 2021, we launched a new goal to reflect our commitment to using critical water resources efficiently. By 2030, we aim to achieve a 15% reduction (2019 base year) in U.S. water use in high- or extremely high-water stress areas.
Water Conservation

AT&T provides connectivity for monitoring systems to enable remote, real-time tracking and management of water use. We use these solutions in our own operations and work with customers to do the same.

We’ve worked to consolidate buildings that are owned or leased in the AT&T portfolio and reduce building space, resulting in water savings of 6 billion gallons since 2013. In late 2020, we cleaned 10 cooling towers in an effort to reduce water consumption. Doing so results in more efficient energy use, prolongs equipment life and controls harmful pathogens. We expect to be able to report results from these efforts later this year.

We work with HydroPoint, a smart water management solutions provider, 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 2017, AT&T has launched 133 smart water facilities with HydroPoint. In 2020, we saved 60.5 million gallons of water through this program.

In 2020, AT&T also deployed an Energy & Building Management System (EBMS) to more than 165 additional sites, bringing the total to nearly 985 facilities. Leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data principles, our EBMS is designed to help property management personnel ensure that facility equipment is operating optimally. This effort helps minimize mechanical cooling needs and reduces water consumption. In 2021, AT&T plans to deploy the EBMS to more than 120 additional sites.

At Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., we use recycled water for both landscape irrigation and in select cooling towers. Since this recycled water program began in 2013, we’ve conserved more than 166 million gallons of potable water. In 2020, we used 32.75 million gallons of recycled water, representing a 49% reduction in overall potable water use at the studio. 

Through AT&T products and services, we also help others manage their water use. As an example of our collaborations with HydroPoint, we have helped Lowe’s save nearly 650 million gallons of water each year. 

Supply Chain

Any water-related risk that impacts our suppliers’ operations has the potential to affect our future business operations. We use 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.