back to article Intel's net positive water use only tells part of the story

Intel is claiming a major victory in its sustainability goals with the announcement it has achieved "net positive water" at manufacturing facilities in the US, India, and Costa Rica. Net positive water, as Intel defines it, means the company is returning more freshwater to local communities than it takes in.  Intel Chief …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Obviously

    >how its magic trick of turning water into more water works in America

    Massive pre-shift consumption of American beer ?

    (Obviously speaking about mass produced stereotypical American beer. Not your local artisan Rhubarb and Elderflower infused IPA, which nobody could drink enough of to affect the water table)

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Obviously

      I suspect they are double counting water they use themselves twice.

      They are cleaning some up themselves, using it themselves again, and counting that second use as > 100% efficiency.

      Some internal process that used to require paid for water now uses recycled water and so their efficiency has gone up, over last year, compared to their own perception of need, but they are still creating black water output from fresh water input.

      Presumably they pay for fresh watter in _and_ pay for fresh water out, so comparative efficiency from one year to the next can seem impossibly high if they turn their own black water to fresh water.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Obviously

        Ah, the old accountancy joke.

        What's 2 + 2?

        Accountant: What would you like it to be?

        The same thing as the Carbon Credit system that allows wind farm operators to be paid twice (or thrice if you include the subsidies) and biomass operators like Drax who can somehow claim to be carbon-negative whilst burning down a forest

    2. John D'oh!

      Re: Obviously

      "Massive pre-shift consumption of American beer ?"

      I thought that was turning water into piss, or maybe piss into water? Not sure which.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obviously

        I think Anheuser-Busch is providing the waste water treatment / reuse facility.

  2. OhForF'

    >Net positive water, as Intel defines it, means the company is returning more freshwater to local communities than it takes in. <

    I assume the trick depends on what you consider "freshwater".

    The trick might work like:

    1. Pull in x liters of water from some river, do not count it as "freshwater intake" as that water contains something that needs to be filtered before human consumption or being used in processes

    2. Treat that x liters to make it usable for some process in the fab

    3. Use it in that process

    4. Put it back to the river and count it as "freshwater returned"

    Voila - net positive water achieved.

    Is the water in india's rivers contaminated enough to make a plausible argument to not count it as "freshwater" and thus achieve the 394% reclamation?

    1. Little Mouse Silver badge

      Let's not forget, H2O is a by-product of burning stuff.

      So you could include the step: "Generate all local energy using fossil fuels." More water. Result.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        So you could include the step: "Generate all local energy using fossil fuels." More water. Result.

        Not coal, of which the main results of burning it are carbon dioxide, sulphur* dioxide and radioactive fallout.

        Short-chain hydrocarbons produce the most H2O per mass burned (e.g. methane CH4 + 4O2 => CO2 + 2H2O, ethane C2H6 + 7O2 => 2CO2 + 3H2O, etc.) but as the chains get longer, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in proportion to the water (and the mass burned) goes up.

        *I refuse to use the IUPAC spelling. Call me back when you can pronounce aluminium properly.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We'll talk when you can spell aluminum properly.

          (Not sure why you think 'f' should be spelled 'ph', but whatever.

  3. Notas Badoff

    You put your left foot in ...

    "Net positive water, as Intel defines it, means the company is returning more freshwater to local communities than it takes in."

    If this is possible for them, then a closed system is possible for them. And Intel would not have to "take in" any local water. I call Hokey Pokey.

    1. Snowy Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: You put your left foot in ...

      Yes if it good enough to return to the rive as fresh water it should be good enough for intel to use again.

      If it contains some contamination that makes it unusable then it is not clean enough to return to the river!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: You put your left foot in ...

        >Yes if it good enough to return to the rive as fresh water it should be good enough for intel to use again.

        Not if your process needs <ppb of some contaminant. We are happy to drink water with 'minerals' but the machines aren't.

        Having said that it's normally a problem of solvents, its hard to remove tiny amounts of a waste solvent, compared to removing heavy metals, but you can dilute it down to a safe level on the waste stream

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You put your left foot in ...

          Anyway. anybody whose opinion counts, drinks Evian, or can at least afford a decent filter.

    2. squigbobble

      Re: You put your left foot in ...

      I had a similar thought when they claimed that the waste water from the planned Magdeburg fab will be cleaner than the feed water that they're planning to draw from a local aquifer. The only charitable explanation I could think of is that the fab processes introduce specific contaminants which have a big effect on the process even in trace amounts, making it uneconomical or infeasible to completely remove them. The levels of the mystery contaminants would be low enough to pass public water quality standards (if they're even regulated) but not to meet their own requirements.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: You put your left foot in ...

        There's an argument to be made that any water-requiring industry should always have its waste outlet upstream from its inlet...

        1. jmch Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: You put your left foot in ...

          Absolutely this!!

        2. Little Mouse Silver badge

          Re: You put your left foot in ...

          Dammit - I can only upvote once!

        3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: You put your left foot in ...

          >There's an argument to be made that any water-requiring industry should always have its waste outlet upstream from its inlet...

          hope you don't like eating farmed food

  4. lowwall

    A drop at a time

    Intel has published its projects at https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/environment/intel-and-the-environment.html

    This is how Intel is coming up with its return numbers

    Firsthand reductions

    - Adjusting manufacturing processes so it uses less water per unit of output (wafer/$/transistor/?)

    - Treat and reuse some of the water that flows through the foundries

    - Using water produced by a desalinization plant in Israel

    But these only go so far, so they are including third party reductions as water "returned" to the community. This includes:

    - finding some local inefficiency in water consumption (such as flood irrigation where drip irrigation will do) and paying somebody to fix the issue

    - paying people with local water rights not to use those rights

    - buying land or conservation easements or restoring wetlands that at least theoretically result in recharged aquifers or higher river flow

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: A drop at a time

      Yeah like carbon trading, you fly around the world in a jumbo jet then offset your carbon with credits by paying someone to _not_ cut down a tree they were going to cut down.

      Carbon neutral in name only. The tree was already there and already needed to balance the system.

  5. PRR Bronze badge

    I pump-out a lot of water from my central air-conditioner and dehumidifier. It may easily be 3% of my well-water consumption. It is "dirty", with house-dust. At my scale it makes no sense even to measure this dampness, but a big plant striving for lower indoor humidity than I need could justify manager and staffer.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      Yes! Burn petrol to make water!

      Doh!

      We need to all walk around in Dune's stillsuits.

      With pee collectors producing nitrates to replace the fertiliser stocks.

  6. jmch Silver badge

    Good for Intel

    Maybe they're doing it for the greenwashing, maybe they're doing it so they can reprocess and reuse their own wastewater because there's not a lot to go around, quite possibly they're doing it because they realise that if they don't do it the locals will get angry.

    Either way it's good to see that they are having so many initiatives to improve fresh water availability, because even though there are gazillions of litres of it, it is still a scarce resource

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Good for Intel

      Unless they are doing is an accounting trick. Extract X gallons from municipal water, add in Y gallons from a river or well and deliver x+y gallons of contaminated eater to municipal sewer system

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    May I be an obnoxious grammar maven for a minute?

    "Everyday" is one word when it's used as an adjective. When used at the end of a sentence as in the article, it should be written as two words, "every day".

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: May I be an obnoxious grammar maven for a minute?

      Of course you may. Indeed, it is expected.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: May I be an obnoxious grammar maven for a minute?

      Only if you annoy the other Grammar Nazis by saying, "when used at the end of a sentence, it should of been written..."

      Mwahahahahaha

  8. El Bard

    Devil in the details

    Another part of the story would be to know at what temperature they discharge the water. Even if it is 'clean', it could still wreak havoc in the ecosystem if it is too hot.

    I am not sure how representative these data are,

    https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Characteristics-of-semiconductor-wastewater_tbl1_225601242

    but 30C would likely be too hot for any water body to not cause problems, from directly killing sensitive species to eutrophication.

    1. The man with a spanner

      Re: Devil in the details

      If they were potentially discharging warm water at any significant level would it not be sensible to strip it of its energy? Heat pumps are freely available and energy is expensive.

      Maybe actually being green makes a lot of sense in this case. Its not like they are Techno Luddites.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Devil in the details

        In a situation like this, typically the warm water is too warm for aquatic life, but not warm enough (when compared to ambient temps) to make extraction of energy very feasible.

        If the discharge water was about 25°C, you're not able to do much with it. If you're dumping it into a stream that is normally at about 10°C, you're not doing the fish any favors.

    2. Furious Reg reader John

      Re: Devil in the details

      Would steam be counted as "freshwater"?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Devil in the details

      In Arizona? Surface water is likely to be close to 86F anyway.

      (Just checked, Tempe Town Lake (a dammed off bit of the Salt River) is 93F right now.

  9. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Boffin

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics

    "...the company created around 15,000 tons of wastewater in the first three months of 2021 alone; 60 percent of which was considered hazardous.

    Gee, that sounds really bad! Shame on Intel!

    15,000 tons = 33,069,339 pounds. 8.345 pounds for a gallon of water = 3,962,772 gallons of water. About 660,000 gallons of water in an Olympic sized swimming pool = 6 swimming pools. 60% hazardous = 3.6 swimming pools. Over the first three months = 1.2 swimming pools per month.

    Wow, that is still not good. But it seems like a manageable amount of hazardous water to treat over the course of a month. "15,000 tons" just sounds so scary though.

    1. Twanky Silver badge

      Re: Lies, damn lies, and statistics

      Shirley a gallon is 10 pounds of water? Or 8 pounds if you must... but I don't see where 8.345 pounds came from? Heavy metal contaminants? Dissolved helium?

      Also, unless you want a visit from the reg standards bureau I think you need to recalculate the volume as 74,254,027.9469 chickens' eggs (approximately).

  10. TeeCee Gold badge

    Intel

    Now with Magic Water Fairies(tm)

  11. martinusher Silver badge

    Sleight of Hand?

    From reading the article I get the impression that globally they create more water than they use in their fab plants. The magic is that the extra water created is not at the point of use in the fabs. In other words, its an accounting trick.

    Although molecules of water are identical their value depends a lot on where they are located. A lake in North Dakota is of no use to a facility in the Arizona desert.

  12. Potemkine! Silver badge

    WTF is a "gallon"?

    Never heard of SI? :-P

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