How the campus has managed water


For decades, members of the UC Santa Cruz community have worked to reduce water use on a campus growing to meet the increased educational demands of California students. As the graph above shows, UCSC's student population has increased significantly while its gallons per weighted campus user has gone down significantly. The UC Office of the president (UCOP) averages years 2005-2007 as a baseline for assessing water reduction. You can follow UCSC's water use reduction against UCOP goals annually by accessing the UC Annual Report on Sustainable Practices. UCSC has already achieved UCOP's 2025 goal of a 36% reduction from baseline.

Covid-19, and the associated reduction of people on campus, helped to further reduce water use on campus from approximately March, 2020 through October, 2021.

History of water conservation

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.

How UCSC responded to the city's 2014-16 water crisis

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

In response, UCSC established a campuswide Water Shortage Working Group that met regularly 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 drought.

UCSC students and staff pitched in to help across the campus. The Sustainability Office managed the Water Action and Drought Response Team. The team conducted a campus-wide audit of all state-funded restroom, kitchen and lab fixtures, posted educational signage to encourage the campus community to report leaks to the Work Order Desk as well as to reduce watering, assisted with the identification of campus sub-metering needs, engaged with users through tabling at campus events, and created tutorials for users to understand the new Beacon portal.

2021 - 2022 UCSC Drought Response Team 

Since the implementation of the City's Stage 1 drought restrictions in 2021, a drought response team, headed by UCSC's Energy Manager, Patrick Testoni, has been meeting monthly in an effort to identify water-management practices and new infrastructure that will support current and inevitable future water restrictions. Contact Ellen Vaughan, Water & Climate Action Manager, to learn more or get involved. 

elv 09-2021