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Lowe’s Reduces Water Use and Carbon Footprint with Smart Irrigation Across 939 Stores

“By expanding our use of HydroPoint, we save money while reducing water usage and greenhouse gas emissions in our community.”

— Colleen Penhall
Lowe’s VP of Corporate Social Responsibility

Lowe’s is focused on reducing its environmental impact while also increasing the efficiency of its operations. To address these goals, Lowe’s installed HydroPoint® smart irrigation controllers that use AT&T Internet of Things (IoT) to optimize landscape irrigation at 939 of its stores. Each year, the controllers reduce water use at these facilities by about 650 million gallons, saving Lowe’s an estimated $5 million in total water costs.1  Because water treatment and pumping use a lot of energy, saving 650 million gallons of water also effectively reduces community greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an amount equal to burning 84 thousand gallons of gasoline.2

CHALLENGE: Reduce Retail Store Environmental Footprint and Operational Costs

Since 1946, Lowe’s grew from one hardware store in North Carolina to a Fortune® 50 company with thousands of home improvement stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In 2017, Lowe’s employees helped over 18 million customers a week find the right equipment and materials for their projects. Lowe’s is committed to reducing its environmental impact through product sustainability and operational excellence. In addition to offering a number of eco-products which help customers reduce their impact on the environment, Lowe’s promotes sustainable practices through its chain of retail stores. Among the areas of focus are reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and water use.

Lowe’s recognizes that highly efficient landscape irrigation could address both of these goals. Not only does efficient irrigation optimize water use, but it also comes with a GHG benefit because most potable water is treated and pumped before it is used, a process that is energy intensive. As a result, a more efficient irrigation system that uses less water also reduces energy use and associated GHG emissions.

“In 2014, we worked with our sustainability team to identify smart investments that would increase our efficiency while also reducing our environmental impact,” said Jay Clement, Lowe’s Director of Facilities. Recognizing that 50 percent of water used for irrigation is wasted because of evaporation, wind or inefficient irrigation methods3, Lowe’s began evaluating landscape irrigation solutions.

SOLUTION: HydroPoint Smart Irrigation with AT&T IoT Uses Data to Reduce Environmental Impact

HydroPoint stood out as a premier partner based on the results of more than 25 public and private studies and its longevity in the smart irrigation business. In business since 2002, HydroPoint solutions have achieved 95 percent of conservation potential while reducing water use between 16 and 59 percent. HydroPoint uses AT&T (IoT) technology in its smart irrigation systems. It couples the reliable and secure AT&T network with SIM technology and the AT&T Control Center, an automated connectivity management platform that helps deploy and manage connected devices. Detailed weather data is transmitted using AT&T IoT connectivity to irrigation controllers which calculate the optimal amount of water needed for irrigation, keeping plants healthy.

Every day, the HydroPoint Climate Center analyzes over 8 million weather data points from around the world, including over 50,000 U.S. weather stations and hundreds of thousands of other data sources. This data is used to determine temperature, wind, humidity and solar radiation factors for every square kilometer of the continental U.S. and every 100 meters for Hawaii.

This precise weather data, specifically temperature, wind, humidity and solar radiation, are combined to generate customized evapotranspiration (ET) values. Originally used in the agriculture industry, ET is a highly accurate way to calculate landscape water needs and it is the primary indicator that HydroPoint uses to control irrigation. Many other irrigation controllers on the market only use temperature to determine irrigation patterns, which can overwater the landscape by as much as 43 percent.4

IMPLEMENTATION: Lowe’s Selects HydroPoint to Reduce Water Use, Building Operation Costs, and Emissions

This case study was featured in Retail & Restaurant Facility Business Magazine (page 13).

Lowe’s kicked off a HydroPoint smart irrigation pilot in 2008, which was quickly rolled out to a few hundred stores by the end of 2010. Lowe’s has since expanded the program to 939 retail facilities. The impressive results include annual water savings of over 650 million gallons resulting in $5 million cost savings. Because most Lowe’s stores use water from their local municipality, the company created annual downstream GHG savings of about 750 metric tons CO2e, which is comparable to over 84,000 gallons of gasoline.2

SUSTAINABILITY IMPACT: Recognizing the Potential Impact of HydroPoint Smart Irrigation

Wide adoption of HydroPoint smart irrigation can have substantial environmental benefits. If 2,000 retail stores in the United States use HydroPoint to increase the efficiency of their irrigation, water use could be reduced by almost 1.4 billion gallons and GHG emissions by 1,590 metric tons.2

1 Lowe’s 2017 Social Responsibility Report
4 Allen, Rick G. The ASCE Standardized Reference Evapotranspiration Equation. American Society of Civil Engineers, 2005. Table F-2: Statistical summary of the comparisons between various reference ET methods, using growing-season results from 82 site-years of daily and 76 site-years of hourly data