Since 1993, March 22 has been designated by the United Nations as World Water Day. The day is designed to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s theme is “Water and Energy”.

By: Greg McIntyre, CH2M HILL Global Water Market President

Saturday is World Water Day—a day that has been carved out to remind each of us about the significance of one of the world’s most precious resources. This year’s theme, “Water and Energy”, helps us take it a step farther by looking at not one but two resources that are closely intertwined and interdependent. After all, water is needed to generate energy, and energy is needed to deliver water.

As demand for freshwater and energy continues to increase along with the world’s growing population, we can’t ignore the pressing issue that these resources are limited in quantity and not always easily accessible to much of the world’s population. By the numbers (according to the United Nations), 1.3 billion people do not have electricity; 780 million lack access to safe drinking water; and 2.5 billion live without sanitation. Nevertheless, the reality remains the same: we need water to live and energy to keep our modern civilization functioning. Today, much of our livelihoods and economy rely on water and energy, from growing food to running computers and powering buildings, homes, and transportation systems to operating factories. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the connection between water and energy.

The water-energy nexus may not be a new phenomenon but it is one that we are still working to solve. On World Water Day and every day, CH2M HILL is contributing to the solution by identifying ways to address the amounts of energy required to deliver clean water and reduce the water it takes to generate energy.

Just as water and energy are integral to nearly every facet of our society, they are a major part of our business. We work with clients around the globe to tackle some of the biggest water challenges, and we have made it our mission to help public and private sector clients address the water-energy nexus by finding a balance and conserving both resources.

We helped the Empire Generating Power Plant, a 535-megawatt power station that uses non-disinfected municipal secondary effluent as its only process water supply, allowing the facility to conserve fresh water consumption by as much as 7 million gallons per day. Additionally,  the firm is leading the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s plan to achieve energy independence, using 100% net renewable energy with 80% of the energy being supplied by internal sources.

CH2M HILL is also committed to curbing our own water and energy usage. We are taking action to conserve water in both spheres of our company’s activities: the facilities that we manage ourselves for our own business needs and the water treatment or supply facilities that we operate on behalf of our clients.

At our firm’s Denver, CO headquarters and at global office locations, including the UK, we measure and track potable and non-potable water use. We installed water saving toilets, eliminated bottled water from vending machines and no longer serve bottled water at meetings in Denver. We actively manage our energy use and seek to incorporate energy efficient equipment in our buildings. You can learn more about these and other sustainability initiatives in our latest Sustainability Report.

In addition, we have joined industry partners and associations to heighten awareness for the true value of water and the much needed investment in our nation’s aging water infrastructure. Through these initiatives and others, we are practicing what we preach to our clients. There’s always more that we can do and as we celebrate World Water Day, I encourage you to think about what you can do on an individual level to conserve both your water and energy use this week. Although it might seem like a small drop in the bucket, each drop adds up to be significant when combined.

Download a copy of the infographic here.

Greg McIntyre is president of CH2M HILL’s Global Water Market. Mr. McIntyre has more than 32 years of professional experience in the construction and engineering industry and has held key management, operations and technical roles in the infrastructure, water, environmental, and telecommunications sector. He received his master’s degree in environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Florida.