SAN ANTONIO – H-E-B’s Rittiman Road manufacturing complex used nearly 266 million gallons of potable water from June 2021 to this June, records obtained by KSAT Investigates confirm.
The massive North East side campus, which includes eight manufacturing facilities, topped the list of commercial users of water during the 12-month period by a wide margin.
Tower Semiconductor, a computer technology plant in the 9600 block of Westover Hills, was second on the list with potable water usage during that same period of time of more than 214 million gallons.
Top users not water wasters
“Big does not necessarily mean inefficient,” said Karen Guz, conservation director for the San Antonio Water System.
She said the utility has had “not infrequent” contact with commercial users in the top 10 list in past years.
Potable water is safe to drink, cook with and for bathing.
Guz, who pointed out that SAWS works with its customers to achieve about a billion gallons of savings annually, said companies at the top of the list have looked for innovative ways to cut down on potable water usage.
H-E-B officials, for example, said when the company makes some products, water is used to clean and process certain ingredients. That water is reclaimed, filtered, cleaned and used again in the process.
A spokeswoman for the grocery giant told KSAT Investigates in a written statement:
“H-E-B is one of the largest food manufacturers in the region, producing food for Texans across the state. Many of the products customers see on our shelves are proudly made here in San Antonio. H-E-B operates eight manufacturing facilities at our Rittiman Road campus, including one of the largest dairy and meat plants in the southern U.S. Food manufacturing can use large amounts of water as an ingredient and to help maintain food safety, sanitization, and safe operations. Across our business, through the adoption of innovative technologies and efficient processes, we work hard to drastically reduce our water use, which lowers costs for our business and our customers. At H-E-B, we are deeply committed to conserving our natural resources and protecting the land, water and air of Texas for generations to come.”
Media relations officials with Tower Semiconductor did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment for this story.
Guz said the plant must use “very pure water” in the production of certain technology components but has taken steps to conserve when possible, taking part in several rebate projects with SAWS’ conservation department and utilizing a reverse osmosis process.
Two San Antonio theme parks, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio, were third and fourth on the list of commercial use.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
A Six Flags spokesman outlined the park’s work to conserve water via email after records revealed it used over 209 million gallons of potable water from June 2021 to this June:
“The amount of potable water we use includes water for all fountain beverages, as well as water bottle refill fountains for all of our team members and the thousands of guests visiting on a daily basis. Additionally, all refreshment stands serve cups of complimentary drinking water to any guest on request. This amenity is even more important during these times of extreme heat when proper hydration is so important as we experience a record-setting number of 100 degree days.
“We are aware of the importance of water conservation, and with the limited resources of our aquifer, we have always been and will continue to be pro-active in exploring additional ways to reduce usage.
- We have replaced landscapes with more native and drought-tolerant plants.
- We recycle park runoff water into an irrigation lake and use it to water landscape beds.
- We have installed water-saving plumbing fixtures (sinks/toilets).
- All of our decorative fountains, waterfalls and water features utilize a closed re-circulation system and are primarily fed from rain runoff and captured air-conditioning condensation.
- The water used in our water parks is filtered, treated and re-circulated.”
SeaWorld, which used nearly 206 million gallons during the same time period, has taken steps to reduce usage as well.
In an email, a SeaWorld spokesman told KSAT Investigates:
“Potable water is necessary in all areas requiring human use, including kitchen and dining areas, bathroom facilities, children’s water play areas, and waterpark rides and slides. Water consumption is based on factors including guest consumption trends and functionality and design of an attraction. Triple-digit temperatures play a factor in water consumption as well, as guests use more and there is increased evaporation. SeaWorld has long been an organization that is committed to conservation. We employ tactics to reduce potable water consumption that include adhering to San Antonio Water Systems restrictions, collecting and recycle condensate water, turning off fountains, and utilizing low flow water fixtures in guest and employee facilities.”
Methodist Healthcare rounded out the top five with more than 192 million gallons used from June 2021 to this June.
A Methodist spokeswoman told KSAT Investigates via email:
“The use of water in a health care setting is essential to the safety and cleanliness of our patients. Water plays an important role, from washing surgical tools and equipment to use in life-saving devices like dialysis machines. In addition, water is needed to run the cooling equipment for each of our facilities. Our eight hospitals also use water for some of the same reasons you would use it in your own home – to cook, launder, shower and flush the toilet. That requires a significant amount of water considering Methodist Healthcare is the largest health care system in South Texas. Over the summer, we experienced a spike in patient volume, which called for more water usage. That usage was necessary to fulfill our patient’s needs in a setting whereby we are caring for them 24/7, every day of the year.”
Bexar County, CarbonFree Chemicals, City of San Antonio, CPS and Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages took spots 6-10.
SAWS is no longer required to release residential water usage records after the Texas legislature last year passed a state law making certain utility customer information confidential.
Recycled water in high demand
Many San Antonio companies have decreased their potable water usage by utilizing SAWS’ recycled water product, which costs less than potable water and contains extra nutrients.
“Our recycled water product comes from our sewage treatment plants, where we treat all of the effluents, we call it, that comes from all of our customers and treat it to a very high level. It’s not quite to drinking standards, but it’s a pretty good product that’s sent up through the purple pipe distributions system,” said Guz.
Topping the list of reuse water users from June last year to this June was Blue Wing Club Inc., which SAWS officials described as a South Side turf grower.
Blue Wing Club consumed more than 274 million gallons of reuse water.
Toyota was second on the list of reuse water at more than 208 million gallons, records show.
“Toyota’s a big operation and where they can, they try to use the recycled water product and then where they can’t, they use potable water,” said Guz.