On December 5, 2017, over 200 Bay Area water leaders gathered at the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus for Sustainable Silicon Valley’s fourth annual water event, No Drop Left Behind. The day featured thought-provoking presentations, panel discussions, productive group exercises, and networking opportunities. The agenda kicked off with Microsoft’s announcement of its Silicon Valley Campus redevelopment plan, which will create its “smartest, greenest office yet” on the 32-acre site.

Microsoft’s Sustainability Program Manager of Real Estate and Facilities, Katie Ross, explained Microsoft’s vision and plans for the state-of-the-art, net-zero water usage campus. Ross pointed out the global nature of the water scarcity issue, and that Microsoft endeavors to be part of the solution: “The only real solution is to reuse as much water onsite as possible.”

Microsoft’s plans for the new Mountain View campus include collecting and reusing black and grey water onsite and restricting the use of municipal water for potable purposes only (e.g., drinking, sinks, and showers). This will be made possible by onsite greywater treatment, a storm water collection and conveyance system that will supply campus irrigation systems, and rain gardens.

Microsoft envisions that these water reuse and conservation measures will allow the new Mountain View campus, which will be complete in late 2019, to reduce potable water use by 50% from what would traditionally be expected for a facility of this kind, and to achieve net-zero water usage. These expectations are particularly impressive considering that they take into account a three-fold increase in landscaping, a 25% increase in overall campus area, and the addition of more employees.

Alongside the breakthrough water conservation milestones anticipated by Microsoft from the plan is the potential for social and ecological benefits. Rain gardens are an effective means of reducing urban runoff, removing pollutants from storm water, and recharging groundwater. Microsoft envisions a reinstated riparian corridor along Stevens Creek, which will benefit the natural ecosystem and provide an enhanced outdoor experience for employees and the community.   

Microsoft has been a carbon-neutral company since 2012, and the new campus will inherit the practices and technologies that have made this possible, including solar power, carbon-sequestering green roofs, and energy-saving natural ventilation.  

Microsoft’s achievement of reaching carbon neutrality and ambition to build net-zero water campuses is a promising show of corporate sustainability leadership.  Sustainable Silicon Valley is also grateful to Microsoft for hosting No Drop Left Behind, which was a valuable forum for the exchange of water reuse and conservation ideas, and for sharing their vision for a net-zero water campus.