Biggest Users: Companies Consume — And Recycle, Reuse

Two of North Texas' biggest industrial water users also aggressive in cutting their water use

When you think of businesses that use a lot of water, championship golf courses may come to mind, or maybe a giant water park. 

But those places pale in comparison to the water used by a Dallas company that makes electronics. Texas Instruments used more than 1.8 billion gallons of water at its North Dallas plant last year.

It’s enough water to fill more than 100,000 backyard swimming pools. And it puts Texas Instruments at the top of the list of the biggest industrial water users in Dallas.

“(It's) not a list we want to be at the top of; that’s why our efforts are constantly for reuse and recycle," said Laurie Lehmberg, who heads environmental efforts for the manufacturing giant.

Lehmberg said the majority of the water is used for cleaning electronics during a process that involves a highly sterile environment.

In Fort Worth, the city’s biggest water user is a bit more obvious.

The MillerCoors brewery in South Fort Worth uses about 900 million gallons of water per year.

"You have to have good water to make good beer," said James Jackson, a company vice-president and manager of the Fort Worth brewing operation.

Most of the water goes into the product itself. The rest is used for washing cans and bottles and in cleaning equipment used in the brewing process.

But while MillerCoors and Texas Instruments use the most water in the Metroplex, they’re also aggressive about looking for ways to cut back.

“At least they’re going in the right direction," said Rita Beving Griggs, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club in Dallas. “We need other companies to go in the right direction as well.”

Both companies said they recognize their businesses and the future of the Texas economy could be threatened if water supplies run short.

Dozens of Texas counties are currently in the worst drought since the 1950s, a reminder of how fragile the situation can be.

“We could very much lose other business, because people feel like maybe we can’t move here because there won’t be enough water," said Mary Gugliuzza, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Water Department.

At Texas Instruments, the company reuses much of the water from the manufacturing process by running it though giant cooling towers used to cool the air in the buildings on the sprawling campus.

And at Miller, the company sets incremental goals to lower water usage each year by making the cleaning and preparation process more efficient, reducing the number of gallons used for each barrel of beer produced.

Jackson said Miller is always looking for ways to do more to cut water use.

TI’s Lehmberg agreed.

"Every day we look for opportunities, so we are constantly challenging ourselves for what else we can do," she said.

According to city records, the other large industrial water users in Dallas and Fort Worth include hospitals and hotels -- a reminder of why many hotel chains urge customers to reuse towels and bedding during their stay.

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