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SCU Water Conservation

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a drought and request that residents cut their water use by 20 percent, Santa Clara University is redoubling its efforts to conserve water.

The University started using recycled water for some purposes in 2002. It has cut its per-person use of potable water by 29 percent since 2005, and potable water use per square foot of building space has fallen 21 percent since 2005. But given the need to conserve even more, the University is looking at new ways to cut back.

Lindsey Kalkbrenner, director of the Center for Sustainability at Santa Clara University, emphasizes efforts at conservation the University has undertaken during the past several years:

Efficient fixtures and plumbing. The University has installed motion-activated faucets, low-flow showers and toilets, and waterless urinals. “The interesting thing is that the waterless urinals saved us money on the labor associated with maintaining the plumbing,” Kalkbrenner said. “It was a retrofit we did just thinking about water, but we actually got other benefits from it.”

Recycled water for irrigation. The beautiful University campus obviously requires water to maintain. Today, more than 85 percent of the campus landscape is irrigated with recycled water, Kalkbrenner said. This is water that has been used once, sent to a water treatment facility for treatment that is less extensive than what is used for drinking water, then sent back to the campus in purple pipes. Recycled water is not drinkable, but it used for irrigation and for flushing toilets in some buildings.

Synthetic turf. Bellomy Field and Stanton Soccer Field are both synthetic, which takes less water than real grass. (They do still require some water, though, for washing and to keep the temperature down on hot days.)

Weather monitoring. The University’s sprinkler systems use a weather monitoring system to remain off if it has been raining.

Native plants. The University has been increasing the use of native plants, which don’t require much water, in its landscaping.

Swimming pool cover. Covering the pool at night has helped prevent evaporation.

Submeters. Submeters monitor water use in individual buildings or parts of campus, making it easier to pinpoint opportunities to reduce use further.

Education. The University has had an ongoing education program to encourage saving water.

To further reduce water use, the University is also taking the following new actions:

  • Campus water audit to find possible water leaks or ways to reduce water demand.
  • Further increases in areas that are irrigated by recycled water.
  • Further reductions in the amount of water per square foot that is used for irrigation.
  • Increased use of low-water plants.
  • Further education, including residence hall competitions.
  • Increased metering to make consumption more visible.


Mondays through Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m., the garden manager is available to provide information on reducing water use in the garden. The Center for Sustainability is also offering a water-wise gardening workshop on March 29 at Forge Garden. Participants will learn about drought-tolerant landscaping as well as efficient water use (and re-use) for backyard gardens. RSVP here.

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