Reduce and reuse

Gary Buford

Gary Buford knows water. The environmental engineer has been at Boeing’s St. Louis site for 30 years, much of that time testing and monitoring water quality, and managing waste water treatment and discharge. Buford estimates at one point the site was using more than a million gallons of water a day, with one-third of it going down the drain -- being discharged into the local storm sewer.

“Boeing implemented aggressive environmental targets to reduce our use of water, along with energy and hazardous waste. We found solutions that helped us meet the goals and address tougher waste water regulations from the local water district,” Buford says. “We thought it was the right time to reduce our water intake and reuse water in as many ways as we could.”

A St. Louis team of environmental scientists and facilities leaders designed a water conservation plan that focused on eliminating a huge source of waste at the site: “single pass” uses of water. In a single-pass process, county water is used to cool a piece of equipment and then discharged directly into the storm sewer.

The team found many single-pass water uses and provided a “closed-loop” alternative. In a closed-loop system, water used on-site is sent to the cooling tower for reuse, instead of being discharged into the storm sewer. Buford says the closed-loop systems and other conservation projects are saving the site millions of gallons of water a year and substantially lowering costs.

The site has reduced water use by 20 percent since 2007, and more conservation projects are planned in 2013. Buford says he feels a lot of personal satisfaction from seeing the improvements the site has already made. “I’ve got the best job in St. Louis, in my opinion.”