Campus Sets Water Conservation Goal of 22 Percent

Photo: La Rue Road median
Turf conversion projects iike this in the La Rue Road median are continuining around the campus.

Quick Summary

  • Target covers potable water and landscape irrigation water
  • Last year the campus achieved a 25.7 percent reduction
  • Drought Response Action Plan leads to policy and operational changes

Hours before the official start of summer June 20, the UC Davis Water Action Committee set the following conservation goal: a reduction of at least 22 percent in the use of potable water and landscape irrigation water, March through October, compared with the same period in 2013.

Water Dashboard

The committee is encouraging the campus community to continue the good work that led to a 25.7 percent reduction in water use from June 2015 through February 2016. The state’s emergency drought declaration at that time called for a 25 percent cutback from the base year of 2013.

The object now, according to the committee — comprising operations and sustainability staff, faculty and representatives of key water users such as Student Housing — is to incorporate last year’s reduction actions into long-term operations.

The drought began five years ago, but UC Davis started conserving long before that — so much so that the campus today uses about the same amount of water as it did in the 1970s, despite a near tripling in population.

Two years ago, in response to calls by state officials and UC President Janet Napolitano, UC Davis created a Drought Response Action Plan, presenting a number of actions that could be implemented quickly to achieve a 20 percent reduction in water use, as the state was asking for at that time.

Several of these short-term measures — including landscape irrigation reductions and use of recycled water to replace potable water in cooling towers — contributed to a large portion of the campus’s recent savings. 

The Drought Response Action Plan also proposed long-term measures requiring changes to operations, dining services, landscape management, education-outreach, utilities infrastructure, and new construction and renovations.

Here are some of the policy and technology changes that are contributing to sustainable water savings:

  • Design and Construction Management revised the Campus Standards and Design Guide for new construction and building renovations.
  • Facilities Management is replacing bathroom fixtures with low-flow models, when replacements are needed.
  • Grounds and Landscape Services installed “smart” irrigation controls.
  • Student Housing installed low-water use fixtures (faucets, toilets, urinals, showerheads and washing machines).
  • Dining Services installed low-flow and motion-sensor-based prerinse nozzles, faucets and hand-washing sinks in kitchens, recirculating systems for the water in dish room troughs and water-efficient washing systems.
  • Utilities installed a reverse osmosis system with the latest boiler expansion project. The higher quality water greatly reduced water use in supplying the boilers.

Making conservation a habit

Establishing consistent conservation habits is a vital step to preserving California’s water supply, and there are many steps you can take on a day-to-day basis to conserve water. It can even be as easy as how you wash your hands.   

Other ways that UC Davis faculty, staff and students can save water on campus include:

  • Report leaks, broken fixtures and irrigation spray heads to Facilities Management by phone, 530-752-1655; online work order (look for the "Submit a work order" button on the Facilities Management home page); or email.
  • Turn off water when you aren’t directly using it, such as when you are lathering up in the shower, washing your hands, soaping up your dirty coffee mug, etc. Students living on campus are encouraged to keep showers brief.
  • Wash labware in water-conserving ways, avoid single-pass cooling for lab equipment and mindfully use high quality (deionized, distilled and reverse osmosis treated) waters.

This list is far from exhaustive; practicing conservation conscious habits should be a part of your daily routine. More information about UC Davis water conservation is available online.

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Lauren Riebs,

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