Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Colleges help lead the way in water conservation


by Lynne Geller, communications and outreach, Water Resources

The month of October brings us Columbus Day and Halloween –also Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day (Oct. 8), Evaluate Your Life Day (Oct. 19), and National Forgiveness Day (Oct. 25) – depending on the calendar you are using. But today we are recognizing October as Campus Sustainability Month.

Colleges and universities around the world are making impressive strides in “walking the talk” – making their personal and collective choices sustainable, including conserving water. And many of those institutions are right here in Washington state.

Shout-out to the University of Washington

Students enjoying a spring day at the UW, Seattle.
Credit: sea turtle / Flickr Creative Commons
Since 2001, the University of Washington has spent some $3 million on saving water. And it’s paying off: water usage has significantly dropped (and they have the numbers to prove it!) In FY2015, they even exceeded their target goal by using less than expected. (Yes, in the conservation world, less is more.)

UW provides many examples, big and small, indoors and out, of actions that contribute to less water use. Facilities Services has expanded the use of automatic irrigation systems. They have installed sub-meters which will help identify leaks, which are a notorious water-waster. Lower visibility/priority lawn areas were let go dormant this summer. Water from rainwater collection serves a number of purposes throughout the campus.

UW has identified water-wasting equipment and updated them, such as replacing water cooled compressors with air cooled ones. On a smaller scale, they are letting more time go by between washings for the motor pool. And they have reduced the amount of power washing they do, just focusing on removing graffiti and slippery surfaces. Both these efforts save water and don’t really upset anyone’s sensibilities. Check out this campus map to see all the cool sustainability stuff going on at UW.


Photo by Suzanne Shaw

Hats off to Whitman College

Whitman College, in Walla Walla, has a lot to be proud of. Whitman’s landscaping team works with an eye towards both beauty and sustainability. This includes the use of native and drought-tolerant plants, and using non-potable water for much of their irrigation needs. Using GPS to mark the coordinates of nearly 6,000 sprinkler heads, they performed a water audit. They determined the coverage area of each sprinkler, which helps them use as few sprinkler heads as possible.

Inside buildings, they are using water conservation devices such as dual flush toilets, and low-flow showerheads and faucets. Front-loading washing machines are the norm. Systems are in place to detect and repair water leaks.

The college’s fitness center has a heat recovery system that recaptures and recycles the warm water that rises off the swimming pool. After running through an evaporator, the water and latent heat are extracted and used to heat the pool. Talk about reuse! For more information on Whitman College’s sustainability efforts, look here.

Institutions of higher learning commit to sustainability principles

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) was established 10 years ago, with a mission to “inspire and catalyze higher education to lead the global sustainability transformation.” In our state we have over 20 colleges and universities which are members, including the two institutions highlighted in this article.

AASHE established October as Campus Sustainability Month. Hopefully you are inspired to bring more sustainable water practices to your home and place of business. Because every month is a good month to be aware of your water use and conserve wherever possible. It does all start with you!

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