When it comes to water conservation every little bit counts. In the case of Northrop Grumman, however, a little bit is actually quite a lot.
The aerospace company recently announced it will use 16 million gallons of reclaimed water this year to cool four buildings on its North Redondo Beach campus.
The project was made possible by working with the West Basin Municipal Water District, which created the infrastructure to pipe reclaimed water from the Edward Little Water Recycling Facility in El Segundo.
The facility takes effluent treated to secondary standards from the Hyperion Plant and disinfects 40 million gallons of water per day to produce five tiers of water quality in use at more than 200 sites.
The water being used at Northrop is not clean enough to drink, but it was specifically engineered to meet the standards appropriate for its cooling towers that run the air conditioning.
“Northrop Grumman continues to strive to become a more sustainable business by conducting all of its operations in an environmentally responsible manner,” said John Murnane, vice president of Global Operations and Space Park site manager. “This particular project reflects our company’s commitment to implement effective water conservation practices and reduce our dependency on potable water.”
Even though Southern California is officially out of the drought experienced over the past 10 years, the region is still not out of the woods entirely, according to West Basin Director Carol Kwan.
“The job is not over,” Kwan said. “We had a good rainy season last year, but one year of rain doesn't help. We still aren't getting snow pack. Every gallon you recycle here is a gallon of potable water than can be used by everyone at home.”
And, 60 percent of that water usage occurs outdoors in Southern California, according to Kwan. With the region technically a desert, roughly two-thirds of the region’s water is imported, either from Northern California San Joaquin Delta or the Colorado River.
While the reclaimed water comes at a lower price than traditional tap water, after infrastructure costs and any additional water treatment, cost is rarely the deciding factor. In Northrop’s case, the company spent $1 million, according to Murnane, who said the company was driven more by altruism.
“Given that Southern California is vulnerable to periodic droughts, sometimes quite serious ones, our company wanted to do its part to reduce our impact on the region’s supply of drinking water.”
In order to bring reclaimed water to buildings like those at Northrop, West Basin must create the infrastructure. In this case, 2,600 feet of new water pipes were installed over the past year.
The company then had to pipe the water from the property line to the four buildings on the northwest side off Aviation Boulevard. In the future, they plan to use more reclaimed water for other buildings as well as landscaping.
“Anytime a new customer comes on, especially one with the profile of Northrop and their commitment of using local supplies, it's a big deal because they are quite an institution in the South Bay,” said Elise Goldman, recycled water program specialist for West Basin. “I think the drought was a kind of wake up call. They wanted to do the right thing so we've been working with them for a couple years.”