How the campus has managed water

For decades, members of the UCSC community have worked hard to reduce the amount of water used on a campus that was growing to meet the increased educational demands of California students. Here is background and a brief description of some of those efforts:

History of water conservation

Twenty years ago, in the 1993-94 year, students, faculty, and staff on campus used a total of 170 million gallons of water. Despite the fact that UCSC's student population increased by almost 7,000 in the two decades that followed, campus water use in the 2012-13 year totaled 178 million gallons.

"Through an investment in water-saving projects, ongoing education efforts, and the value that our students themselves have placed on sustainability, we've continued to bring down our per-capita water use," says Lacey Raak, who serves as UCSC's sustainability director.

In the 2012-13 year, the campus consumed 10,200 gallons of water per capita*. That's 28 percent less than a three-year per-capita average established for the 2002-05 fiscal years, identified as baseline years for UCSC water use (see Water Action Plan). "While the number of students on campus has increased pretty dramatically over the years," Raak says, "our overall use of water has increased at a much lower rate."

How has this been achieved

In 2007, UCSC retained a consultant to complete a Water Efficiency Study, which identified 19 "high-priority" projects, resulting in an estimated 15 percent savings in total annual water use in existing facilities — a savings projected to be approximately 30 million gallons annually. The campus has completed all of the 19 projects as of FY 2013.

The projects completed are wide-ranging and included pilot tests of high-efficiency toilet, urinal, and shower fixtures; campus-wide fixture retrofits; changing cooling tower operating procedures; installing additional campus sub-meters for irrigation systems; designating a staff person to coordinate a water conservation education program for student residents; installing "purple pipe" in new and renovated buildings to facilitate future use of non-potable water for toilet flushing; replacing turf with low-water-use landscaping; replacing the existing campus sub-meters with more accurate radio-read meters; installing efficient spray valves in kitchens, cafes, and restaurants; and collection of rainwater for use in a new cooling tower.

A number of new campus projects are planned

  • Crown Merrill Apartments grounds: There is a proposed project for Physical Plant to replace both irrigation clocks at CM Apartments with one, more efficient, Evolution Central Controller. This could be done within the next few months.
  • Merrill Residence Halls C and D: All toilet fixtures will be replaced in summer 2014 with ultra-low-flow units as part of the capital renewal. The buildings will be off-line from mid-June to mid-September 2014.
  • Oakes Apartments: There is a proposed project to replace all toilets with ultra-low-flow units (approximately toilets). This project is dependent on an exception to accessibility upgrade requirements until a more thorough Major Maintenance renewal project is undertaken.
  • Dining facilities: Replace existing toilets or flush valves with 1.28 gpf units and urinals with "Pint" flush valves.

Shorter-term efforts UCSC is making in response to city's current water crisis

The Santa Cruz City has declared a Stage 3 Water Emergency throughout the city's service area. As a result, UCSC has been asked to reduce overall water consumption by nearly 25 percent, beginning May 1, 2014.

In response, UCSC has established a campuswide Water Shortage Working Group that is meeting regularly throughout this emergency to evaluate current usage, examine strategies to reduce water use, identify and prioritize short-term conservation projects, and ensure compliance with water restrictions for the 2014 drought.

UCSC students and staff are individually — and in groups — are pitching in to help.

To learn more about campus and individual efforts to address this water emergency, please go to this page for more information.

How will the campus know if it is meeting or exceeding the target

  • Regular monitoring of all campus water meters and communication of data to water users in order to adjust water usage practices as needed.